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Candidates forum brings out new views

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Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation District hosts candidate forum for board seats.

THE TIMES: JAIME VALDEZ - Six of seven candidates for the THPRD board spoke at a forum on Saturday at the Elsie Stuhr Center. Candidates for the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District Board made their cases Saturday at the Elsie Stuhr Center. Ballots have been distributed and the deadline to vote is Tuesday, May 16.

Six of the seven candidates for three open positions participated, including incumbent Larry Pelatt, Felicita Monteblanco, Holly Thompson, Lori Waldo and Nathan Dahlin and incumbent Jerry Jones Jr. The seventh candidate, Stephanie Thompson, who filed for Position 1, did not attend.

Each participant gave a five-minute presentation summarizing why they are running and the priorities they would pursue if elected. They also answered a variety of questions from the audience and community.

Winners will take office on July 1. Their four-year terms will expire in June 2021.

Diversity, access and inclusion were the major themes of candidate responses to questions posed at the forum.

Each candidate in attendance gave a brief presentation and took questions from the audience. The candidates also remained after the question-and-answer period to talk with anyone interested.

Candidate Holly Thompson set the tone for the forum in regard to diversity on the board, saying "Vote for Felicita and vote for me, because we understand what it takes," she said. "If you keep voting for the same thing, you'll get the same results."

Meet the candidates

Nathan Dahlin said he will save taxpayers money, improve communication and make parks and facilities more accessible. "I'm running for Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation to cut costs, eliminate waste and ensure that facilities are well maintained and accessible to you," he said. "Public servants must do more than make policy. Don't make deliberations opaque. Constituents have a right to ask who voted for or against a policy and receive specific reasons why or why not."

Dahlin, who works in the records department of a Portland law firm and previously was a book store manager, has not received any public endorsements.

Jerry Jones Jr. has served as vice president and general manager at Lanphere Construction and Development, which manages properties and facilities for the large Lanphere family of auto dealerships. "I have a work history in capital improvements and facilities maintenance," Jones told a reporter in a previous Pamplin publication. "The parks district has a $100 million bond program right now."

Jones has tackled large construction projects with THPRD and said he works to oversee responsible use of taxpayer dollars to improve what he views as the finest park district in the Pacific Northwest. He said most people are grateful and happy with THPRD and the livability of the area. "THPRD has something for everybody — from cradle to grave," he said. "The staff and maintenance are top-notch. No one can compare."

Felicita Monteblanco said area residents generally are happy with their access to parks and recreation, but there is a misunderstanding among some community members about where their tax dollars are going. She also said there is a lot of work to be done to serve the entire diverse community. Monteblanco has lived in Washington County for more than 25 years.

"I grew up taking advantage of all the district has to offer and these days can typically be found at the nature parks getting my exercise in. I am running for Position 1 on the THPRD Board and I am committed to greater engagement of community partners. Last year I served more than 80 unique nonprofits in my 9-5 and I will bring those established relationships with me. I want to engage younger adults in programming. Beaverton's median age is 34.7. It is critical to our economic future that we cultivate young adults to ensure our legacy of accessible parks and outdoor activities is carried forward. I want to create Stronger Partnerships with Government Entities. In a world in which resources are shrinking and greater collaboration is sorely needed, THPRD needs to be at the table, alongside other government bodies, to establish shared goals that can support our respective missions. And finally, I want to keep programming accessible and affordable. Let's ensure everyone can participate," she said.

Monteblanco is endorsed by Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington, the entire Beaverton City Council, County Commissioners Greg Malinowski and Dick Schouten and the Beaverton Chamber of Commerce.

Larry Pelatt has spent 12 years on the THPRD board and spent a number of years in sales and management. He has served on the Athletic Center Advisory Committee, local school committees and the City of Beaverton Site Design & Review, as well as serving as the sport commissioner for the State Games of Oregon. He said he has a strong background in business and budgeting and that he is well-versed in the SDC funding process.

He added that his long-term involvement in the district helps him to understand the needs of the constituents. Pelatt said at the forum,

"The park district is doing great. We are very effective with tax dollars," he said. "It's our money, it's your money and we are really, really good with it." Perhaps in jest, Pelatt said maybe there should be tolls at the beginning of the trails.

Holly Thompson said, "I have spent my life surrounded by public service. As a kid, our dinner table discussions were full with my dad talking about his various volunteer work. When it came time for me to graduate college and settle on a career, public service was a natural fit."

She has spent more than 18 years working for Beaverton. 

"At the city, my job is to lead our public involvement and communication efforts. I help people get involved in government-decision-making," she said. "During my time, we've won numerous regional and national awards for our work. I've led our community visioning program, helped launch our cultural inclusion program, created the picnic in the park series, worked on communications for the Beaverton Public Safety Center and Urban Renewal efforts, and more. Every step of the way, my career has been geared toward working to understand what the public wants and being sure we are responsive to those needs."

She is a wife and a mother with two children who are in the parks or centers at least five days per week. "We live THPRD in our family," she said. "We love the park district." 

Winning the election could add some facets to the board, she said. "When I look at the current board ... I don't see anyone who looks like me," Thompson said. "I don't see any moms. I don't see anyone with my professional background. I think these are strengths I can bring to help round out the decisions before the board."

While THPRD is in great shape, there is still more work to do and I think I can be helpful. If elected, my priorities would be: Supporting active and healthy lifestyles for all residents, equalizing service levels throughout the district, maintaining and promoting a mix of programming to all ages and cultures, and continuing THPRD's history of strong financial management." Thompson said though people love the park district, there is an undercurrent of comments and strong concern about affordability and as a board member she would want to examine what's going on underneath the service, so all community members have access. "I care about the whole, not just parts," she said.

She said that some of the programs might be too expensive for everyone to afford. She also pointed out that growth is a big challenge, because so many people have moved to and continue to move to the area, the centers are overcrowding and infrastructure needs to be addressed.

Lori Waldo said, "My husband and I moved to the Bethany area over 17 years ago to raise our family. Our new home was surrounded by land, but it was covered in weeds with no place for our kids to play. I organized the neighborhood to envision and realize the possibilities for a park close to nature where our kids could play, and a place that felt like home where we could enjoy life's special moments. Our grassroots campaign to build a park resulted in THPRD's Kaiser Woods Park, and showed me that together we can make possibilities into reality." Waldo's daughters grew up here and "THPRD allowed them to be close to nature, learn to dance, swim and play sports and provided our family countless special moments together with our neighbors."

She said that creating active communities is her passion and she is well-versed in policy and master planning. She said in her profession as a technology project manager, she manages million-dollar budgets and delivers strong results.

"I will bring my passion, community building and fiscal responsibility to the THPRD Board," she said. "With your vote, together we can protect and enjoy our great natural spaces, habitats and wildlife and ensure our parks and programs reflect who we are as we welcome every generation and culture to play and learn together."

Waldo said she has been talking to people in the community and they have great ideas that she would like to implement, if elected to the board.

For more information, visit thprd.org.