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Head of Seattle Parks Foundation is resigning

Karen Daubert, founding executive director of the powerful group, is stepping down, after completing the campaign to build Lake Union Park and other projects. Meanwhile, the interim parks superintendent has a recurrence of an earlier cancer.
Karen Daubert, founding director of Seattle Parks Foundation

Karen Daubert, founding director of Seattle Parks Foundation Seattle Parks Foundation

Karen Daubert, who since August 2001 has been the admirable leader and founding director of the Seattle Parks Foundation, has given her board five months' notice of her intent to step down from the demanding job. A search is under way for her successor, with former Parks Foundation board chair Carol Lewis leading the search committee.

Daubert, an attorney, says she'll take a year off and then hopes to come back to "other park work." The Foundation has led the fundraising efforts for the new $20 million Lake Union Park, as well as numerous other parks enhancement projects around the city. The prestigious board grew out of the failed effort to create a Seattle Commons.

Daubert's resignation coincides with the sudden departure of Tim Gallagher as head of Seattle Parks and Recreation, but Daubert says it was "completely unrelated," and that she had been thinking about her resignation "for a year." Still, the departure of both is a blow to efforts to put parks funding on a stronger footing, particularly with a Metropolitan Parks Levy, which both Gallagher and the Foundation were actively exploring and which the McGinn administration apparently opposes. Daubert said her organization will be researching various options for enhanced funding for parks during the next year. She says it's unclear what form of increased funding, if any, will be recommended.

One of the small ironies is that Daubert was co-chair of the 2008 Parks and Open Spaces Levy, an idea originally championed by Mike McGinn, then head of Great Cities, and opposed by Mayor Nickels. The levy, which passed easily, does not contain money for maintenance of the new parks being constructed, leaving McGinn in a budgetary pinch and leading him to disassociate himself from the levy somewhat. During the campaign, some strains developed between the highly organized Parks Foundation staff and the much-looser McGinn style.

Meanwhile, the question of Gallagher's successor is getting more confused. Mayor McGinn had quickly named Christopher Williams as acting director. But today Williams informed his staff that an earlier cancer had returned. "I am currently working with my medical provider to determine the best course of treatment and consulting with my family regarding both short-term and long-term decisions. As soon as I have more information I promise to share it with you," Williams wrote to parks employees. He is currently number two, in charge of operations at parks, and is a widely loved figure in the department thought to have a good chance of being named the next permanent director. If Williams does elect to take medical leave, it is thought unlikely that McGinn would ask Gallagher to serve during the interim, as relations between the two are strained.

Disclosure note: Search chair Carol Lewis is a member of the board of Crosscut Public Media, publishers of Crosscut.com.

David Brewster is founder of Crosscut and editor-at-large. You can e-mail him at david.brewster@crosscut.com.


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