Metro Parks Tacoma has launched so many multi-million dollar projects over the last couple years, a parks board commissioner could get dizzy trying to track all the groundbreakings. The board has made so many meaty decisions for the future of South Sound parks and recreation, it’s hard to single out one that’s most substantial.
Voters deserve much of the credit after approving a $198 million bond measure in 2014. The Metro Parks Board should be commended, too, for juggling oversight duties during a building spree.
Commissioner Andrea Smith is known for steady leadership and financial discipline stemming from a long banking career. Her passion and knowledge of parks deepened during a previous 12-year stint helping lead the nonprofit Metro Parks Foundation.
The News Tribune Editorial Board endorses Smith in her bid for a second six-year term; she faces challenger Stephanie Smith in the Nov. 7 general election.
Two of the five seats on the park board appear on the ballot this year, but only Position 4 is contested; incumbent Erik Hanberg is running unopposed for Position 5.
Where does one start when assessing what Andrea Smith, Hanberg and company have accomplished?
Point Defiance continues to be a focal point, for sure. The Pacific Seas Aquarium is the largest capital project in Metro Parks history. An Environmental Learning Center on zoo grounds will provide space for the Tacoma School District’s Science and Math Institute. And a major waterfront project will feature a long-awaited pedestrian bridge linking the park to Ruston Way.
These three linchpins of the Destination Point Defiance plan will be unveiled in 2018.
Across the city, an uplifting vision for park investment in flagrantly underserved neighborhoods is being realized. The groundbreaking for the Eastside Community Center was held last weekend.
Oh, and the board has completely turned over the agency’s executive team, including replacing the 17-year executive director who retired last fall.
Andrea Smith has served capably as board president in 2017. A lifelong Tacoman and one-time bank teller who worked her way up to credit analyst, she brings a sharp eye to parks fund balance sheets — a vital skill when so many millions are flowing in and out.
She’s also an avid parks promoter and user; she swims laps five days a week at People’s Community Center, the Hilltop pool where her children worked as lifeguards and swim instructors.
Opponent Stephanie Smith was motivated to run out of concern Metro Parks is abandoning the smaller Portland Avenue Community Center in favor of the new Eastside center. She’d also like to see more pocket parks in overlooked neighborhoods.
“Megafacilities are nice, but green spaces are for everybody,” Stephanie Smith, a stay-at-home mom and full-time college student, said in a phone interview.
Fortunately, Andrea Smith said Metro Parks is committed to seeing some activities continue at the Portland Avenue center, though the agency may not run services directly.
We have no reason to disbelieve her — and can conceive no argument against reelecting Andrea Smith to the Metro Parks board.