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Lande named island parks boss

He hadn’t planned on making a career move to Bainbridge, but everywhere Terry Lande looked, he found the island in his field of vision.

Just opening a door at a relative’s house in Seattle, he was confronted by a “Bainbridge Island” T-shirt.

“We had all kinds of weird experiences – signs like it was supposed to happen,” Lande said.

It did. Lande, 49, was hired Thursday as the next director of the Bainbridge Island Park and Recreation District. The announcement was made after a unanimous vote by district commissioners.

Lande comes from the Willamalane Park and Recreation District in Springfield, Ore., a community of 52,000 across the river from Eugene. With some 50 employees, the agency is roughly twice as big as the island’s park district in personnel and budget.

He takes the post last held by Dave Lewis, who resigned in the spring to take a recreation management job in California.

Having spent 20 years with the Willamalane district, raising a family and ingraining himself in the Springfield community – as a member of St. Alice Catholic Church, and Springfield Rotary – Lande was not looking for a new job. He and his wife had just refinanced their home and planned to stay put.

But he was intrigued by the Bainbridge directorship when it was advertised in a park association journal. After talking to colleagues familiar with the district and community, Lande and his family visited the island in April.

A stop at Battle Point Park made a lasting impression. Lande stopped to speak with parents and volunteers working at the roller hockey rink, a conversation that went on for an hour.

“It was like talking to the Chamber of Commerce,” he said, calling the folks he met both pleasant and highly knowledgeable about the community.

“I kind of fell in love with (Bainbridge) that day,” he said, and applied for the job shortly thereafter.

Lande earned a bachelor’s degree in park and recreation management at the University of Idaho in 1977. After serving with the Kidsports program in Eugene from 1979-83, he joined the Willamalane Park District in neighboring Springfield.

He supervised recreation programs for a eight years, and was promoted to director of recreation services in 1990. The post put him directly under the district superintendent and a five-person board.

But Lande made his real mark off the job – he leaves Oregon as the most successful high school girls basketball coach in the state’s 3A league history.

In 10 years helming the program at Marist, a Catholic high school in Eugene, Lande ran up a mark of 245-28. His teams never finished worse than fourth in the state tournament, and claimed state titles in 1996, 1997 and 1999.

Citing overwhelming time commitments, he resigned from the post in April, leaving the team with a 104-game league winning streak.

“The way I look at it, over the past 10 years, it’s been the Marist girls basketball program that has been the most successful,” Lande told the Eugene Register-Guard at the time. “I just happened to be riding the fastest horse.”

The Bainbridge opening drew some six dozen applicants. Board members Thursday were enthusiastic about Lande’s selection, and several district employees also praised the hiring.

The board eschewed the aid of an executive search firm, instead forming a selection committee that included district staffers and representatives of youth sports, land conservation and other park constituencies.

Chuck Field, who held the director post for nearly two decades before retiring five years ago, acted as a search consultant.

Bringing those interests together, board chair Dane Spencer said, gave all parties a stake and was “the best PR move” possible.

“I’m pleased with the process. It couldn’t have gone smoother.”

Said commissioner Dave Shorett: “We had a huge field of great candidates, and we picked the right one.”

Lande and his wife have two children in college – a son at the University of Oregon, and a daughter at the University of Idaho – and a 12-year-old daughter.

He will take the $83,000-per-year post on Aug. 11.

“Hopefully, the board and staff have grand plans,” he said, “and I’ll jump in and participate.”

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