Community Environment Government News

New city parks manager has long experience in local government

Posted on December 14th, 2022 By:

Jennifer Haro was in Ireland to attend a friend’s wedding when she received an email indicating that the city of Gig Harbor wanted to interview her to be its new parks manager.

After that slightly delayed interview, the city hired Haro as its new parks manager in early November. She replaces Matthew Keough, who took a job with PenMet in July.

Haro brings a wealth of skills and experience to her new job, including nearly three decades of work in local government.

Most recently, she was a policy analyst for the Kitsap County commissioners’ office, working on a variety of issues such as transportation, spending and homelessness.

She also served as the liaison between the commissioners and community councils in the towns of Manchester, Kingston and Suquamish.

New Gig Harbor Parks Manager Jennifer Haro, second from right, with her family. Courtesy of Jennifer Haro

Family history in local government

Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido said Haro’s family has deep roots in local government. Her father was a planner and assistant director of community development for the county for years.

“Jennifer has a really good background in policy and planning and was a really valuable part of our team. And with her family history she has tremendous knowledge of how things work,” Garrido said. “She’s easy to work with and truly knows her stuff and I miss her already.”

Before her time with Kitsap County, Haro worked for the cities of Port Orchard, Normandy Park and other jurisdictions.

She’s a 1998 graduate of Western Washington University in Bellingham, where she studied environmental ethics, land use, planning and history.

Drawn to Gig Harbor

She lived and worked in Kitsap County for decades (she attended Olalla Elementary school and South Kitsap High School), but she’s been a frequent visitor to Gig Harbor.

“My kids both went to Peninsula High School and I’ve always loved to take walks along the waterfront,” she said. “And of course I noticed all the beautiful waterfront parks and how people enjoy them.

“What I already love about Gig Harbor’s parks is how well they’re taken care of and how many there are in a relatively small area, especially along the waterfront. I think the Old Ferry Landing has the best views, but I also love the great public space that’s been created at Ancich Park.”

Haro sees many opportunities for the local parks.

“The Sports Complex (planned near the Gig Harbor YMCA) is going to be amazing, and the city just recently signed a contract to create a master plan for Crescent Creek Park. It’s really an exciting time,” she said.

What the job entails

Her new job includes managing parks-related programs and grants, overseeing the planning of capital projects, collaboration and community outreach.

And, as the city purchases more land to conserve in its natural state, Haro’s experience with water quality and habit restoration will also be put to good use.

Haro envisions her job as helping implement the hopes and dreams of Gig Harbor’s residents, the parks commission and the city council.

City Administrator Katrina Knutson has high praise for Haro.

“We’re very excited to have her on our team,” Knutson said. “She sees issues from the larger perspective and the smaller perspective and she’s already proven to be a very positive collaborator and really good at communicating with our citizens and council and our staff.

“And her experience in land use, environmental and policy issues will be very beneficial and will definitely be put to good use.”

Outside the office

When she’s not at work Haro enjoys reading, hiking and, of course, traveling. Her favorite travel destinations are Ireland and Italy, she said. And she’s especially fond of walking her dogs Seamus, a black lab/Dalmation mix and Finley, a Great Pyrenees mix.

Spending time with her family is also important. She has two kids: son Aidan, 17, is a senior at PHS; daughter Anna, 19, is studying communications at WSU. Her husband Greg works for a tech firm in Seattle.