Two incumbents face challengers for PenMet Parks board positions

Posted on October 21st, 2021 By:

Two of five Peninsula Metropolitan Parks District Board of Commissioners positions go before voters in the Nov. 2 general election. Only two candidates filed for each post, thus bypassing the August primary. Incumbent Missy Hill is running for a second 6-year term against Matt McKee for Position 2 and Steve Nixon is seeking reelection against Joshua Hardwick.

Hill boasts a master’s degree in Public Administration and 20 years of experience in the employment and training industry. She has lived in Gig Harbor for 27 years. McKee earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Informations Systems and worked 35 years as a Boeing software developer.

A carved PenMet Parks sign

PenMet Parks manages nearly 600 acres of parks and properties. Ed Friedrich / Gig Harbor Now

Nixon served 34 years with Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One, retiring as assistant fire chief. He has lived in Gig Harbor since he was in the first grade at Artondale Elementary and graduated from Gig Harbor High School. Hardwick, a Peninsula High alumnus, earned a bachelor’s of Business Administration in Accounting degree and worked in finance, accounting and technology.

None of the candidates are required to file contribution and expenditure reports with the state Public Disclosure Commission because they plan to raise and spend no more than $5,000.

For nearly 17 years, the district has provided for the management, control, improvements, maintenance and acquisition of parks and recreation facilities within the area of unincorporated Pierce County west of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and east of the Purdy Bridge, excluding the city of Gig Harbor. The PenMet system includes 595 acres of parks and properties.

Picture of Sehmel Homestead Park playground.

Sehmel Homestead Park is one of the jewels of the PenMet Parks system. Ed Friedrich / Gig Harbor Now

On Oct. 5, Gig Harbor Now sent an identical questionnaire to each PenMet board candidate. Hill was the only one of the four to respond. We are printing her responses verbatim.

Missy Hill

Current occupation: Self-employed

Have you previously run for or held elected office? Yes. Currently serving as a PenMet Parks Commissioner — Term 2016-2021.

1. What is your motivation to run for the PenMet Parks board?

Over the last six years I have had the opportunity to learn the nuances of the PenMet Park District and be exposed to the actual needs of our community. It’s been a challenging learning curve. I feel without a doubt I am better suited to serve as a Parks Commissioner now than ever before. With the understanding of how PenMet parks actually operates, commissioner responsibilities, and community relationships that have been developed over last 30 years I feel I will be my most effective moving forward in my second term. I have appreciated working collaboratively with my fellow Park Commissioners and value their input and respective experiences. As a Board we have reached a synergistic level that excites me to continue to work on the future of PenMet Parks representing our tax payers.

Missy Hill

Missy Hill

2. What are the top three challenges facing PenMet Parks, and what is the board’s role in addressing them?

1. PenMet has had effects from the overall growth of Gig Harbor in the last decade. What began as a grassroots organization has steadily developed into a full service government agency. The challenge has been how to balance community demands and sustainable infrastructure development throughout the district. For 2021-2022 the district will experience organization and staffing level changes to develop divisions to a standard necessary to meet community demands. We expect to see better overall maintenance of parks amenities, trails, facilities, and grounds. The board was instrumental in developing the 2022 district goals and objectives and that will be supported by the 2022 budget allocations.

2. Communication continues to be a challenge for most companies and government agencies in a world of social media connections. Misinformation can spread quickly so it is important for PenMet to develop strategies to best inform the public of park district activity. Improving communication methods is a mutually agreed upon goal for 2022 and beyond.

3. Adapting to covid-19 challenges has been continual for the last year and a half and PenMet has done an excellent job of pivoting, adapting, and adhering to changing regulations. We have successfully maintained our levels of service while developing safety measures to ensure our participants and visitors can sustainably enjoy PenMet Parks.

3. Do you believe a public aquatics center is within the purview of PenMet Parks? Why or why not?

It’s possible, but that needs to be studied and the public needs to be engaged in the discussion. That’s why I asked for a feasibility study to be included in our budget for 2022. I was happy to have the unanimous support of my fellow commissioners.

4. Do you believe park hosts serve a legitimate role? Do you agree with the hosts’ terminations?

Park hosts programs, when and where appropriate, absolutely serve a legitimate role and can be successful when implemented and managed properly. PenMet had has both negative and positive experiences with park hosts over the years. This really comes down to the continual evolution of the district from its grassroots inception to where we are today. As the demands grow, so should our organization. I support the best possible methods to manage our parks and utilizing qualified personnel with clear standards for levels of service that park patrons can expect to experience at all PenMet park properties. The most important thing to keep in mind is that we need our parks to be well maintained, accessible, functional, and beautiful.

5. Are you satisfied with the direction the community recreation center is headed? Why or why not?

The CRC has been a long time in the making. We were fortunate to have nearly free space to use at the former soccer center for several years. That gave us a good idea of what we needed for an indoor facility of our own, but we also surveyed the community, engaged focus groups and a steering committee comprised of community members of diverse demographics, and spent a significant amount of time developing an operations pro-forma to give us confidence that the CRC will best meet the public demands and will be financially sustainable for the district. Not only were we successful in obtaining LTGO bonds to finance the project, but we also received an upgrade credit rating based on how well we have managed district funds. I am looking forward to seeing this project completed and open for our community to use in the next couple of years.