Auburn woman hired to lead Kent parks

Parascondola was a former City Parks and Recreation Board member

The City of Kent found its new parks director at Metro Parks Tacoma.

After 19 years in Tacoma, Julie Parascondola has been hired to run Kent’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department. She starts Dec. 5.

Parascondola, of Auburn, replaces Jeff Watling who left Kent in July to take a similar job with the City of Issaquah.

“Julie is a recognized leader in the field of parks and recreation and brings a passion for the profession and strong understanding of community service by providing, safe and accessible parks and facilities and quality programs,” said Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke in a media release. “Not only has she worked at one of Washington’s top parks agencies, but she also serves as a member of the national Commission for Accreditation of Parks and Recreation Agencies.

“These qualities are important as we address fiscal sustainability of our parks system overall, and the transformation of our programming in light of our demographics and the city’s funding challenges. With Julie’s background and what she brings to the position, I am very confident in the future and quality of our parks and recreation offerings.”

Parascondola was hired after a nationwide search that drew 104 applicants. The City paid Olympia-based Karras Consulting $29,500 to help find candidates.

Parascondola will oversee 117 employees across seven divisions including parks administration, planning and development, operations, facilities, Riverbend Golf Complex, recreation and housing and human services. She will receive an annual salary of $140,000.

She also will work with the Parks and Recreation Commission to direct the operational, financial and capital improvement activities of the department. She will oversee the maintenance and development of 68 parks and open spaces covering more than 1,800 acres and an extensive trail network.

“I’m thrilled Mayor Cooke asked me to join her team as the city’s next parks director,” Parascondola said. “I believe passionately in what parks, arts and recreation bring to a community. It will be a privilege to lead a department that has such an impact on Kent’s economic vitality, the health and well-being of its residents and the overall quality of life.”

In her most recent role as Tacoma’s regional parks manager, Parascondola’s responsibilities included management of Point Defiance Park; the Ruston Way Waterfront, including its marina and boat launch; Fort Nisqually living history museum, visitor center and other facilities. She also managed district-wide public use permitting of parks, signature rentals and long-term leases.

Parascondola was a long-time member of the City of Auburn’s Parks and Recreation Board, where similar to Kent’s Parks and Recreation Commission, the group advises elected officials on planning, development, acquisition and management of city parks, recreation facilities and programs.

She is a certified parks and recreation professional and a graduate of the National Recreation and Parks Association’s Directors, Marketing and Revenue, and Executive Development schools. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in public administration at North Carolina State University.

Cooke thanked Park Operations Superintendent Garin Lee and Housing and Human Services Manager Merina Hanson for ably serving as co-directors during the search process.

“They have done an outstanding job,” Cooke said. “Kent is fortunate to have such qualified employees step up during this period of transition. I’m pleased they are staying on and returning to their prior roles.”

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