New parks director takes reins

Kitsap County’s new director of Parks, Facilities and Recreation came on board this week, first appearing in front of the county commissioners and then meeting with his department’s staff in an informal get-acquainted lunch session.

“I want to get a sense of what all the different parties want,” said Mark Mauren, who was hired in September after a long recruitment process. “I want to get my arms around the department before making any suggestions or changes.”

While he stayed away from specifics, Mauren said it was time for the county to develop some of the facilities it has already purchased. He also expressed the desire to poll county residents as to what they want from their parks department.

“The community wants parks,” he said. “The public wants to have recreational opportunities, both active and passive, whether it’s trails, pools, archery ranges or biking.”

Mauren said the younger generation has different needs and is so plugged into electronic devices that they will look for parks to provide wireless services.

One conflict Mauren expects to face concerns budget. The available recreational money will not increase, and many residents who support a park’s establishment may be less willing to support its continued upkeep.

“People are willing to pay for the infrastructure, but less willing to pay for maintenance,” he said. “So we might investigate options like artificial turf, which can save money.”

Mauren said the department must plan for Silverdale’s inevitable incorporation, which will decrease the collected taxes and consequently shrink the park department’s budget.

Mauren, 47, who will earn $89,835.20 annually with a full benefits package, worked for the Department of Natural Resources in various capacities for 24 years.

During that time he has, on occasion, supervised the management of Kitsap County lands. North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen has worked with Mauren in this capacity.

Mauren succeeded Cris Gears, who was promoted to the county administrator position in May. The department has operated without a director since that time, while a recruiting firm screened job candidates.

Four of these candidates went through a rigorous interview process involving county staff and the public in late August. An offer was tendered to Mauren less than a week after those meetings.

Gears said his past experience directing the department would make him an interested, but not interfering, party.

“I have great confidence in Mark and his abilities,” Gears said. “I will make myself available as a resource, but I won’t watch Parks and Recreation any closer than any other department.”

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