'There seems to be a breakdown in Edmonds right now'

Edmonds Parks Director Carrie Hite resigns
By Brian Soergel | Jun 27, 2019
Photo by: Brian Soergel In this photo from January 2017, Mayor Dave Earling and Parks and Recreation Director Carrie Hite cast the first ceremonial fishing line into Puget Sound at the official dedication of the renovated Edmonds Fishing Pier.

Editor's note: This story has been updated from an earlier version.

Carrie Hite grew up in Edmonds, graduating from Woodway High School in 1981. Her mother still lives here.

When she accepted a job as the City’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services director eight-and-a-half years ago, it was a chance to do some real, long-lasting work for her hometown.

She did.

But on June 17, Hite submitted her resignation to Mayor Dave Earling. She has accepted a job with the City of Redmond, where she will serve as its director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services. Her last day in Edmonds is July 19.

Earling’s announcement of Hite’s resignation came June 21, the day after Human Resources Director Mary Ann Hardie’s last day. Both Hite and Hardie have expressed frustration in working with members of the City Council.

“After eight years of an administration, change is inevitable,” City Councilmember Mike Nelson said. Nelson is a mayoral candidate. “I really enjoyed working with Carrie on making Seaview Park the city's first inclusive playground for children of all abilities. I will miss her enthusiasm and her collaboration, and wish her the very best.”

“There seems to be a lot of uncertainty and instability in Edmonds,” Hite said in her resignation letter. “I know this often happens with the ebb and flow of politics, and I certainly understand and am prepared for that in my role as a municipal leader.

“This particular time in the political environment in Edmonds seems different to me. The relationship the council has with the administration has been impactful to staff, City processes and policies. It is difficult to navigate this and feel a sense of teamwork and security.

“A city (both mayor and council) is efficient, functional and stable when it has good, robust conversations with each other and with the community, and adopts solid policies and plans that are vetted and are used to guide work.

“Then, together as a team, we all follow these plans and
 policies. There seems to be a breakdown in Edmonds right now. It is possible that this will improve after the coming election, but there are a lot of unknowns.”

In a separate conversation with the Beacon, Hite stressed that she didn’t want to get into “the blame game.”

“I want people to know that I'm really going to miss Edmonds since it's been a great community. For me to make this decision was really difficult.”

Hite, 56 and now living in Fremont, said the City of Redmond recruited her for the position.

“I certainly feel like I have a great opportunity in Redmond,” she said. “It has a lot to offer. And being a municipal leader professional, I still have some years left before I retire, and parks jobs in the greater Puget Sound region don't come up often, and I really would like to stay in this area.”

Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, who is running for reelection, said she was saddened to hear of Hite’s departure.

“She is a kind, hard-working and motivated person who has been one of the best park directors this City has had, and was able to step in and wear many different hats when needed,” Buckshnis said.

“Her bubbling personality and leadership has helped this City navigate through many wonderful and difficult projects. The City of Redmond should be leaping for joy that she decided to take the job. I will certainly miss her, but I know we will still keep in touch. I wish her so much success, as she deserves every moment of joy and accolades for a job well done.”

Accomplishments

Hite’s resignation means the loss of two of the City’s most important department leaders.

"It's certainly not without a heavy heart that I must share the news of Carrie's resignation," Earling said.

"Carrie has been a veritable force of nature in her unwavering and persistent pursuit of major parks improvements for our community over her eight years as parks director."

During Hite’s tenure, she had the following accomplishments:

 

  • Completion of Hazel Miller Plaza, Dayton Street Plaza, and Veterans Plaza;
  • Revitalization of City Park, including the new kids' spray pad; and
  • Financing plan for bringing athletic fields to Woodway and Meadowdale High Schools.

Hite also oversaw completion of tmajor master-planning projects:

 

  • Civic Park Master Plan and its funding
  • Marina Beach Master Plan, including the associated plan for daylighting Willow Creek as a chief component of restoration of the Edmonds Marsh
  • Redevelopment of the beach and public access associated with the soon-to-begin Waterfront Center project
  • Securing over $15 million in grant funds for these and other parks projects

In addition to providing leadership on major parks improvements for the City, Hite also served as acting Human Resources director for five years before Mary Ann Hardie took the helm of that department.

Accolades

Many expressed their support for Hite on Edmonds Beacon’s Facebook page.

“Carrie's leadership has brought more positive activities that shape how Edmonds looks and feels,” said council candidate Susan Paine. “Her guidance on all the fun, beautiful, and natural amenities here will be a long-lasting legacy for all of us.”

“I’m very disappointed to lose Carrie,” said Councilmember Dave Teitzel. “She has been nothing short of outstanding in bringing energy and action to driving our parks and recreation programs forward. Redmond’s gain is clearly our community’s loss.”

Council candidate Alicia Crank said Hite’s departure is a significant loss.

“Carrie has been an amazing asset to the city,” she said. “She was very helpful to me personally from the first day I moved here, in navigating community volunteer opportunities, to her delivery of thorough presentations and updates I get to listen to as part of the Planning Board. I hope Redmond truly appreciates who they are getting.”

Others were a little more critical of the perceived reason for Hite’s departure.

Said Cam Tripp, who led the citizen effort to dismantle the Edmonds Street Waterfront Connector project: “She was the one who would have had to sign off on mayor/city potential strategy to use ‘safety’ as justification to avoid difficult changes to city code to build a concrete bridge on Edmonds Beach/Marine Preserve/Salish Sea.

“That would have been a tough spot to be in. I had heard of some City employees splitting with leadership. We thank her for her service in our community for so many years. Thank you, Carrie, for all of your work here in Edmonds. You are always welcome back here.”

“The City of Edmonds has not had their citizens at the forefront of their decisions for a decade or more,” said Daniel McMillin of Engel’s Pub, where he books the bands and entertainment, and hosts Engel's open mic on Tuesday nights.

“The City Council does not have the best interest of the citizens of Edmonds in mind when making decisions that affect the businesses and the people. Their job is to tend to the needs and the wishes of the citizens. They seem to be more interested in their own needs and careers. This should not be about politics, but it has become just that.”

“Some really great projects in queue”

Hite is a Northwesterner. She graduated from Western Washington University with a degree in parks and recreation management, and attended the University of Washington for her master’s degree in social work, with a minor in public administration.

“Even though the political situation in Edmonds is a little muddy right now, I think that somebody could be attracted to this job just because there are some really great projects in queue and ready to go,” she said.

“But you know, I think in any municipal leadership, that if you stay objective and engage the public, have relationships and take the high road on things. It makes it easier. I’ve tried to do that in Edmonds, and I think I’ve been able to.”

Hite said she has no regrets about leaving her hometown, although she admits her departure is bittersweet.

“I just don't want to go home grumpy sometimes,” she said. “I'm a happy person. I love life. I love to live life. And the stresses can pretty difficult. I’m just trying to just find a more collaborative teamwork kind of environment for myself.”

 

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