By Polly Keary, Editor
Just a month ago, the members of the Monroe Parks Board elected Jeff Rasmussen chairman of the board, on which he has served since 2011.
A few days later, he got a letter from Monroe Mayor Robert Zimmerman, who said that he was not going to reappoint Rasmussen to the board, which meant that Rasmussen was dismissed immediately.
Now Rasmussen is asking the city council to consider alternatives to the current rule, in which the mayor selects all the candidates for board positions, and the city council then confirms one of those candidates.
Rasmussen was appointed to the Parks Board in 2011 to replace a board member who resigned halfway through a four-year term. Rasmussen knew he’d have to be reappointed after his term ended in December.
He was hoping he’d be reappointed; he was enjoying the position, he said.
“I love the Parks Board,” he said. “It’s a great group. I’ve always been passionate about parks, and the group that’s there, not to mention the staff, they’re about the best group of people.”
The work was meaningful, too, he said.
“More or less, it was about how could we make the parks better, or more useful,” he said. “In general that was the conversation and the topics that we looked at.”
When January came around and Rasmussen hadn’t heard anything about whether he’d be reappointed, he looked at the Parks Board agenda and saw his name on the roster, so he showed up.
At that meeting, he was elected chair.
But then he got a letter from the mayor, stating that the mayor didn’t plan to reappoint Rasmussen.
“In his letter, he cited a difference in vision for the city between me, the council and him,” Rasmussen posted on his Facebook page the next day. “I’m assuming he is referring to the proposed wakeboard park at Lake Tye.”
Rasmussen had been opposed to adding a cable tow park to Lake Tye that would allow watersports enthusiasts to board or ski while hanging onto a tow rope that circles part of the lake. The proposal is still working its way through ecological review.
“I wasn’t favorable about the cable park in Lake Tye,” he said. “I don’t like the location. If that’s his reasoning, he’s entitled to that.”
Zimmerman declined to say much about why he didn’t reappoint Rasmussen, saying that he wouldn’t divulge details of why an employee was terminated, and the same reasoning applied to board members.
But, he said, it wasn’t a decision he made by himself.
“I just believe it wasn’t a good fit,” he said. “It was based on discussions with staff and other servants. It certainly it wasn’t something I did on my own. I sought the opinion of others.”
Rasmussen said he wasn’t entirely surprised.
He and a colleague had met with Zimmerman and city economic development manager Jeff Sax several times in 2011, and while Rasmussen said the meetings were good, both sides acknowledged that there was not a meeting of the minds.
Rasmussen said he is disappointed.
“There was a lot of stuff in the works,” he said. “2013 was going to be an awesome year.” He’d been working on ways to improve interaction between the city council and parks, he said. And he was excited about the prospect of holding a large concert at Lake Tye, and adding a band shell there.
Last Tuesday, he appeared before the city council during the public comment period, and suggested they review the nomination and appointment process.
“The mayor has the authority to appoint and reappoint and then [candidates] are confirmed by council, but if the mayor decides he doesn’t want to reappoint someone, there’s not an electoral process and really there’s no say in council in the process, which is disappointing,” he said. “We have a group of people that are an advisory group to council, but council doesn’t get any say on who’s there and who’s not.”
It is at least worth having a discussion, he said.
The law on the matter seems clear, though, that mayoral appointments and council confirmations are the only recognized procedures for appointing board members.
“Councils of second-class cities and towns may provide by ordinance, for a board of park commissioners, not to exceed seven in number, to be appointed by the mayor, with the consent of the city council, from citizens of recognized fitness for such position,” reads RCW 35.23.170.
In any case, Rasmussen said he’s not abandoning public involvement.
“I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to continue and get to share that excitement as a board member, but I am still going to share with them as an active citizen,” he said. “I’m not going anywhere.”