Camas City Council members this week questioned a proposal to revamp the city’s parks and recreation manager’s job description, title and salary after the impending retirement of longtime Camas Parks and Recreation Manager Jerry Acheson.
“The parks and rec leader is retiring in a few weeks,” new Camas City Administrator Jamal Fox told city council members at their workshop on Monday, Oct. 5. “We appreciate the program built over the last 30 years under the leadership of (Acheson) and his team, and look forward to envisioning the next 30 years to meet the needs of our community.”
Fox and Jennifer Gorsuch, the city’s administrative services director, presented a proposal to city councilors Monday that would change the title of parks and recreation manager to “director of parks and recreation,” substantially change the position’s job description and responsibilities, boost the salary schedule by 25 percent and alter the required qualifications of new applicants.
“We see this as a director-level position that will engage the community, reimagining parks as the heart of our community,” Fox said Monday. “As we look at parks leaders nationally, COVID has challenged many parks leaders and departments to reimagine how they lead the services they provide to the community.”
The new head of the parks and recreation department, Fox said, should be someone who can lead the department through its development of parks, and trails in the city’s North Shore, coordinate with other public agencies and “align with the mayor’s priority of land” in the 2021-22 budget.
Gorsuch said a “review of comparable data” showed the position’s salary schedule was “approximately 25 (percent) lower than it should be, to be equal with other department directors and … be part of the senior leadership team.”
Several councilors questioned the proposal, saying they worried the city may not be able to afford the salary increase and wondering if the position carried enough management-level responsibilities to warrant a salary bump and position title change.
“This job basically has six full-time employees reporting to this manager,” Councilman Steve Hogan said during the Oct. 5 workshop, pointing out that the proposal would put the parks and recreation manager’s responsibilities on par with department heads who oversee far more employees.
“Moving it to the level we’re talking about moving it up to puts it up with the highest levels on our staff,” Hogan said. “I can’t support the level we’ve got for this in the proposal.”
Instead, Hogan said he would support moving the salary schedule for the new parks and recreation head to a level more consistent with that of the city’s library director, who oversees 23 full-time employees, and the city’s IT director.
The current salary schedule for the city’s parks and recreation manager starts at $7,620 per month at the first tier and goes up to $9,126 per month at the highest, seventh tier. The salary level is the same as the city’s building division manager, public works operations supervisor and planning manager.
The proposal presented by Fox and Gorsuch would bump the position’s pay scale up to $9,676 per month on the first tier and $11,591 per month on the highest tier. That salary schedule would put the position in the same range as the city’s public works director, finance director, community development director and administrative services director.
Hogan said he thought it was important for city leaders to engage the public on their vision for the city’s parks and recreation department before revamping the position responsibilities and title.
“I think it’s important to see where we’re going to move with the parks department and take our time to think through what we really want her or him to do in this job,” Hogan told the other city councilors on Monday. “Once we have the public input (on capital projects), we’ll have a better idea of what this person is going to manage. At that time, I would be open to reconsidering the salary structure if there were enough responsibilities and duties that lifted (the position) to that level. At this time, I do not believe that’s the case.”
Councilwoman Bonnie Carter agreed.
“I think (Hogan’s plan) is a good compromise with a good plan going forward,” Carter said. “After the community input, at that point it’s easier to go up than to go down if we need to reevaluate the salary.”
Councilman Greg Anderson said he believed there was another issue “hanging over” over the city councilors’ heads.
“Can we afford it?” Anderson asked on Monday. “Can we pay for it?”
Anderson said he agreed there may be a community desire to grow the department and revamp the position title in the future, but cautioned city leaders should make sure the city could afford the salary increase before voting it in.
Councilman Don Chaney also agreed with Hogan, and said he thought the parks manager only had three, “maybe four,” full-time employees under their direction.
“Let’s not make a mistake and jump ahead because of some urgent need for this,” Chaney said. “Let’s take our time and do it right, like we’ve learned we need to do.”
Chaney also noted that a few of the proposed changes to the position’s required qualifications, such as a master’s degree instead of a bachelor’s degree and experience in project management and construction management were substantial changes.
Councilwoman Ellen Burton said she would agree with bringing the position’s salary in line with the city’s IT and library directors’ salaries, echoed some of Hogan’s and Chaney’s concerns and added that she would also like to better understand what percentage of the new park and recreation manager’s responsibilities would be dedicated to the city’s current parks facilities’ needs and what percentage would be new responsibilities.
“We need more conversation about where this is going,” Burton said.