After a bruising campaign where challengers second-guessed the decision to purchase the former Broadway Middle School, the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District Board held their own in Tuesday’s election.
Su Coddington, Celeste Bodner, Michael Hinton, Erika Marshall Hamer and Katharine Parker led their challengers after most of the ballots were counted. All but Hinton were appointed to the board after resignations over the past few years amid turmoil and infighting.
The rapid changes on the board and major developments at the park district made this year’s election especially significant. Closures as a result of COVID-19 interrupted services in 2020 and led to layoffs or worker furloughs.
When two board members resigned in July, the new board changed direction and pursued the purchase of the middle school, which had closed after the Seaside School District relocated students to a new, bond-financed campus outside the tsunami inundation zone. The park district completed the purchase from the school district in January for $2.15 million.
The board saw it as an opportunity to preserve and utilize a landmark space in the heart of Seaside.
They ran as ProgressforSEPRD.com and advocated for the development of the middle school as a community resource, stressing child care, recreation for all and sports tourism.
Self-governance, transparency, improving the board’s connection to the community and support for Skyler Archibald, the park district’s executive director, were among their goals.
The Facebook group Transparency for SEPRD Taxpayers helped launch a slate of five challengers under the slogan, “It’s time for a change.”
Al Hernandez, John Huismann, Patrick Duhachek, Jackie Evans and Stephen Morrison saw the middle school purchase as an overreach for an aging building that had little value.
They stressed “foresight, insight and oversight” in their campaign material, along with fiscal responsibility and a voice for taxpayers.
Coddington, a nurse, led Hernandez, a retired accountant, 57% to 43% for Position 1.
Bodner, the executive director of FosterClub, led Huismann, a retiree in sales, marketing and management, 60% to 40% for Position 2.
Hinton, a contractor first elected to the board in 2001, led Duhachek, a former U.S. Navy aircraft maintenance officer and private sector project manager and logistics engineer who owns Wheel Fun Rentals, 54% to 46% for Position 3.
“I’m grateful for apparent victory!” Hinton said in an email. “Our board hitched their wagon to a star! The opposition didn’t see it coming!”
Marshall Hamer, the director of global human resources for Mercy Corps, led Evans, who retired after management roles at Fred Meyer Jewelers, 61% to 38% for Position 4.
“Having grown up in Seaside, and experiencing Sunset parks and recreation for the last 40 years, I feel so privileged to have been on the Board of Directors at this critical juncture in our community’s history,” Marshall Hamer said in an email. “No matter the outcome of the election, I feel good within myself that I stayed positive, that I had a bold vision for Seaside and the district, and that I stayed true to myself and those residents who I represent. There is nothing more important at this point in our community’s history than to be positive and uplifting, and to find a way to increase programming and options at the district for all of our residents.”
In an email, Evans wrote that she wants to “extend a sincere thank you to the people in our district who voted for me and the other candidates who challenged the incumbents. I will support the mission and vision of SEPRD by volunteering for SEPRD sponsored events and attend board meetings to follow the work being done to meet the needs of the community. I want to serve my community by offering my talents and business expertise through opportunities to sit on community committees when possible.
“We are blessed to have so many people who are caring, committed and knowledgeable; who desire to ensure SEPRD is the jewel of the community for future generations.”
Parker, the head secretary at Seaside High School, led Morrison, who retired after management roles at trucking companies, 56% to 44% for Position 5.
Looking ahead, the board has to help manage through the coronavirus pandemic, new programs, a $3 million budget to adopt by the end of June and a Sunset Recreation Center strategic plan. The park district anticipates an opportunity to expand services and revenue by 27% in the next fiscal year.
Potential partners going forward include the city and the school district. The park district is in lease negotiations with the Northwest Regional Education Service District for a portion of the building.
“I’m excited to continue working with our board and helping our community grow,” Archibald said in a statement. “All five of these board members have a heart for service and genuinely care about improving the quality of life for patrons in our district. We also encourage community engagement as we develop our plan for the Sunset Recreation Center.”