by: SUBMITTED - Stu Spence, who is pictured at Legion Park's new playground, has been recreation services manager for the city of Woodburn since 2008. He is leaving to take a parks director position in La Grande.Stu Spence, arguably the most visible face of the city of Woodburn as its recreation services manager, is resigning and moving to La Grande at the end of the month.

Spence, who has worked for the city of Woodburn for six years, is going to be the parks and recreation director for the city of La Grande.

Spence came to Woodburn from Ellensburg, Wash., which Spence said is similar to La Grande, so it’s a natural fit.

“I was drawn to La Grande because it’s a small university town just like where I grew up and went to college and worked professionally in the field (for the first time),” he said. “It felt comfortable to me and exciting to advance in my career.”

Spence has been instrumental in a number of programs around the city, including the Easter egg hunt, the Daddy Daughter Dinner Dance and Woodburn’s Amazing Race, and he has fostered strong partnerships between the city and the Boys & Girls Club, Woodburn School District and Woodburn After-School Club. But he said he’s most proud of the Youth Advisory Board, which he established in 2008 with high school volunteers.

“The roots of (interest in forming a Youth Advisory Board) go back to my experience at the Boys & Girls Club of King County, just providing students with mentoring and a sense of belonging to make a difference. I’ve seen them grow in their leadership skills, having the ability to impact the community and be active volunteers. At that young age it creates a lifelong love of serving the community. They’re really special kids.”

Spence, who received the 2013 New Professional Award from the Oregon Recreation and Parks Association, has also been on the boards of the Boys & Girls Club of Woodburn and the Woodburn Kiwanis Club.

“I’ve been passionate about youth because the first 10 years of my career were focused on youth and teens,” he said. “That formed the foundation.”

But he will miss more than the young people when he leaves Woodburn April 25.

“The thing about Woodburn I’ll miss the most are the relationships I’ve formed and the people who are trying to make a difference for Woodburn,” he said. “There is a solid, core group of folks working hard to improve Woodburn in general.”

Spence said he won’t be a total stranger to Woodburn: His wife and kids will finish the school year in Woodburn and he will still return to the Valley monthly for meetings with the Oregon Recreation and Parks Association executive board, for which he is secretary.

Jim Row, Woodburn’s community services director, said in a statement from the city that Spence is leaving a huge hole in his department.

“Stu is one of the most dynamic individuals I have ever met,” he said. “While he always conducts himself with the level of professionalism you would expect of a community leader, he has never been one to hide the passion he feels for his work and the people he works with. Stu has had a profound effect on the people of Woodburn. He is a significant part of what makes this such a special community.”

Also in the city’s statement, City Administrator Scott Derickson noted that Spence will be difficult to replace.

“You want people like Stu in your organization: energetic, intelligent, passionate, ethical and enthusiastic,” he said. “Stu was integral in helping the city bridge partnerships with outside organizations and he really improved the city’s image. He will be missed, but when you hire good people, other organizations are going to notice and this is a great opportunity for Stu and his family.”

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