Foothills board begins process of finding new director

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By Matt Gunn

Bob Easton, executive director of the Foothills Park and Recreation District, announced last week he is leaving his position, ending more than 31 years as a district employee.

Easton, who began working for Foothills in 1974 as superintendent of parks, will serve as executive director through Dec. 31. He plans to continue Foothills’ campaign for a mill-levy boost as a part-time consultant through June 2008.

“As far as why, it just seemed like the right time,” Easton said. “Thirty-one years here has been a very rewarding career for me.”

And with Easton’s pending departure, the Foothills board has already begun the process of finding his replacement.

“The bottom line, obviously, is getting the right person who’s going to come in and be there for the long haul; that’s the objective,” said Paul Rufien, district counsel.

To kick-start that process, Foothills has retained the services of Peckham & McKenney, a Sacramento, Calif.-based firm that provides executive search and consulting services to government agencies in the western United States.

Lori Hoffner, chairman of the Foothills board of directors, said the firm is in the early stages of the process, gathering relevant information from staff and putting together a job description.

“After the firm is able to get the info that will help get a handle on the position, they will also do fact gathering from different members of the directors team about their expectations,” Hoffner said.

The belief is that the process of identifying candidates and filling the position of executive director will take somewhere between three and four months. Along with district counsel and auditor, executive director is one of the positions hired directly by the board.

“Best-case scenario, we have this person in place the beginning of March and we can move forward,” Hoffner said. “Worst-case scenario, they’ll be coming in right before the May election.”

The search is being conducted nationwide, and is also open locally and to Foothills staff.

“I personally believe that it’s important to have a strong knowledge of parks and recreation and a knowledge of what it is to work in a government organization,” Hoffner said.

She added that Easton’s prominence within the community and his ability to work with people will be among the more difficult qualities to find.

“That is definitely one of the strong suits for Bob,” Hoffner said. “He is a well-liked individual in the community. He did a wonderful job of building relationships with organizations. We definitely would like to find that type of person.”

Once the group of applicants is narrowed to a small group, Rufien says, the candidates will begin the process of visiting the Foothills district, meeting its staff and becoming acquainted with the region. While there will be a formal interview, part of the goal of a candidate’s visit is to see how well they interact with district staff and people involved with Foothills.

Following that part of the hiring process, the board will make its formal selection of Foothills’ new executive director.

“As with anything else the board does, majority does rule,” Rufien said. “But I would be very much surprised if this board didn’t seek a unanimous decision.”

Rufien said his role as counsel in the process could be fairly minimal, such as writing contract language. But because of his knowledge of the district and community, he may have a role in the getting-to-know portion of the interviews.

For Hoffner, who is serving her final term on the Foothills board, finding a new executive director is another significant task on top of the district’s hope for a successful May mill-levy increase.

“They’re both extremely important to me,” Hoffner said. “One of my last opportunities for the district is to make sure that they’re in a strong financial position, and that occurs with a successful mill levy. The other is to ensure they have a strong staff. That comes with the selection of a strong executive director.”

Easton, who among other things plans to spend more time with his six grandchildren, says he believes Foothills will find the right replacement.

“I’m certainly comfortable that the staff and the resources are in place to continue operations of the district,” Easton said.

Contact Matt Gunn at matt@evergreenco.com.