THPRD board seats attract 10 candidates
Voters will have the unusual chance to elect four of the five board members of the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District, the largest of its type in Oregon, which covers about 250,000 people in Beaverton and unincorporated communities.
Ten candidates, including three of four incumbents, are seeking seats in the May 21 election. The only board member not up is Felicita Monteblanco, who is in the middle of a four-year term.
In addition to incumbents in Positions 4 and 5 — John Griffiths and Ali Kavianian are seeking new four-year terms — there are two two-year seats as a result of resignations last year.
Appointee Wendy Kroger is seeking Position 2, which Jerry Jones vacated under pressure. Appointee Todd Duwe is not seeking Position 3, which Holly Thompson left to become THPRD communications director.
Incumbents and Bill Kanable, a former board member seeking the open Position 3, support the district's performance. Challengers acknowledge the district's record but say it can do better with a growing and changing population.
The district sponsored a candidate forum Saturday, April 27, at the Elsie Stuhr Center in Beaverton.
Ballots must be in the hands of county elections officials by 8 p.m. May 21.
Here are the candidates by position and their brief statements, which are in italics; incumbents are listed first.
Position 2 (two years)
Wendy Kroger, 78, the incumbent appointed in 2018, is a community volunteer.
After being appointed to the THPRD Board a year ago, I found I love to serve. I'm running because I want to complete the term and move along the things I believe in:
• Connecting more people to parks, trails and nature.
• Overseeing efficient use of taxpayer funds.
• Expanding programs for all ages and cultures.
• Weaving social justice throughout all of THPRD's programs.
• Growing the district's community partnerships.
Both my professional background and my years of community volunteer service have prepared me for this responsibility. With a master and bachelor of arts degrees, I have worked in city, county, state and federal jobs. I've volunteered in parks, trails, housing, and served as an environmental commissioner and city planning commissioner. I bring all these experiences to the THPRD board room.
Serving almost ten years on THPRD's Trails Advisory Committee, I lobbied for expansion and investment resulting in almost 70 miles of trails today in the district. I served on both the formation and oversight committees of THPRD's highly successful $100 million bond measure.
I fully support THPRD's mission to provide natural areas, high-quality park and recreational facilities, services and programs to its diverse community. I'm 100% behind its commitment to Access for All. I'll continue to help the district focus on being affordable and within reach of all.
THPRD has garnered overwhelming local support and national recognition for its outstanding programs and financial responsibility. In the past few years, the district has added classes, programs, parks, sports fields, trails and natural areas. Its maintenance backlog is down. Even so, it saved THPRD taxpayers substantial money. I believe that is due, in large part, to the leadership of the current board of directors. I'm proud of the district, its staff, and its accomplishments. We're blessed with a great park district and I want to keep it that way.
Amber Wilson-Valdivia, 32, is director of global operations for the Foundation for International Medical Relief for Children, which operates a clinic in Uganda.
I am running for the board of directors to bring a public health perspective to the committee as well as my monitoring and evaluation expertise.
Parks and outdoor green spaces play a vital role in the health of any community and I would love to further encourage and partner with organizations to help people take control of their day-to-day well-being.
Since we moved to Oregon we have really enjoyed the park systems and all the improvements that we seen over the years. I would like to use my strategic planning experience to help THPRD analyze their successes so that these successes can be replicated in the future. Conversely, I would like to use my data experience to find weaknesses in the parks district so that we can identify ways to move forward and improve in a pragmatic way.
I am bilingual in English and Spanish and hope to use that skill to help translate materials and expand communication efforts in the THPRD community.
Position 3 (two years)
Ashley Hartmeier-Prigg, 35, is a business operations manager at Nike.
I am running because when I think about all the big problems our country and world are facing, I feel overwhelmed and hopeless. I realize that while I cannot fix these national and global problems, I can have a positive influence in my own community on issues I care about.
THPRD plays a key role in building community, and I am running to bring unincorporated Washington County's voice to the board. We live in the most diverse county in the state, and how people engage recreationally has changed. As someone who uses the parks regularly, I know the district has a responsibility and an opportunity to be a welcoming place for all, and to be a place that serves residents at every point in their life.
Services and programs look very different for children, teenagers, adult athletes and seniors — and yes, families with dogs need to be better served. With only three dog parks in the entire park system, I know that we need more safe, designated places to bring dogs. As I've reached out to voters, this is one of the recurring themes about how the district can do better.
True access for all families in our district is something I am committed to — and elected leaders should be accountable to this. District staff has done a great job looking closely at who is and who is not accessing the programs, but I would like to see the elected officials of the board lead in this space and really see it through.
I want to see this district last for another 60-plus years. Vote for me and you'll have an elected leader committed to today and to tomorrow.
Bill Kanable, 58, has been a systems analyst for Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield Oregon since 1982. He was on the THPRD board from 2005 to 2013.
I am well prepared for serving on the THPRD Board based upon my understanding the budget process, knowledge of programs and services currently provided, familiarity with board functions and experience with public meeting law requirements.
I elected not to run in 2013 to devote myself to my family. In 2017, I backed out to support another candidate, who I felt it was her time and not mine.
"The timing is right for me in 2019. Although not on the board, I remained involved serving on both THPRD and City of Beaverton Committees.
I have been hearing the call for (a few) new recreation and/or aquatics centers; more programs to meet the demands of all constituents; cost controls keep access affordable; how to provide incentives for property owners not in district who want to opt in; improve intergovernmental relations with the school district, city, county and state; equal access for all constituents regardless of being an owner or renter, and budget funding to support affordable housing initiatives.
All these items will take a lot of work and vision to find solutions, but THPRD is an outstanding asset for our community that is worth my time and effort.
I once heard someone testify at a THPRD Board meeting ask, 'What is the good of having a great park district if no one can afford to live here?' My view is that the parks district provides a quality of life that connects all people, regardless of income, ethnicity or physical restrictions. Programs are in place to assist those of low income or restricted income. Our activities are quite diverse.
Although we can continue to improve, we have made excellent strides in accessibility. I have been fortunate enough to travel (while on the board) and hear praise about THPRD as we are one of the top districts in the nation, and one that others want to emulate.
Position 4 (four years)
John Griffiths, 66, is a consultant and was first elected to the board in 1999.
I am running for reelection to THPRD's board because I have the experience, expertise, and passion to help guide THPRD forward in these challenging times. These have been gained from my work in the National Park Service, my years on THPRD's board, my service on Metro and City of Beaverton committees, and a management career at Intel. I have helped win state and federal grants and forge partnerships at the city, county, and Metro, leveraging their expertise and resources to deliver great facilities and opportunities to our shared constituency.
Over the last two years we've had very high turnover on our five-seat board, with four members stepping down. The result is that, besides me, today there is not another member who has completed even a single term. THPRD is a complex organization with a $117 million budget serving 250,000 people. A reservoir of experience on the board is essential for making sound choices as THPRD moves forward. I want to use my background to help THPRD meet future challenges and ensure that everyone in our rapidly growing and increasingly diverse community has full access to our excellent park and recreation system.
THPRD is doing an exceptional job serving our community! For the last three years the National Recreation & Park Association has recognized THPRD as one of the best park and recreation agencies in the United States. More locally, bond measure-funded improvements have pleased constituents. Our trails, parks, and natural areas are widely used. Our recreational programming receives solid reviews. They provide vital paths for drawing our community together. So, not surprisingly, many consider THPRD an essential service. We are working hard to keep pace with our community. We are currently soliciting volunteers to join our community visioning process, so that together we can plan the THPRD of the future.
Heidi Edwards, 45, is admissions and recruitment coordinator at Portland Community College Rock Creek campus.
Last year, I was a top finalist considered for two vacant THPRD board positions. Since then I have spoken with hundreds of THPRD residents to learn about the needs of our community and how I can best serve on the board.
My extensive professional and volunteer experiences in education and social services are the greatest assets I bring to THPRD. I will help expand local partnerships to leverage limited resources and capitalize on unique areas of expertise. Through such partnerships, we can further address the needs of our diverse population and identify opportunities to connect all residents to THPRD, in addition to training and retaining a diverse THPRD workforce and volunteer base.
I understand the demands and responsibilities associated with overseeing the proposed $76 million operating budget. I bring experience with multimillion-dollar publicly funded budgets and want to ensure that we are exceptional stewards of taxpayer dollars. Additionally, while speaking with residents, I often hear about the rising cost of fees to participate in THPRD activities. I want to address this concern and provide further access to programming without steep increases to program fees and facility use.
As our community grows and land is being developed, I am committed to seeking out additional natural areas and green spaces, as well as, expanding active transportation options through our trail system. I will also ensure that we preserve and maintain what we have. THPRD's 1,500 acres of natural land is a priority and as a current member of THPRD's Nature and Trails Advisory Committee I have had the opportunity to participate in this important work.
It is time for new THPRD board leadership in order to address the changing interests, growth, and needs of our community not only for today, but for generations to come. I look forward to serving and appreciate your vote.
Mahesh Udata, 49, is a client partner in information technology and supply-chain services for IBM.
My platform: (1) Enhance opportunities for people to maintain an active lifestyle in the autumn and winter months. (2) Improve our use of social media and other means to obtain public feedback helping us to expand and improve our offerings. (3) Work relentlessly to make THPRD one of the nation's top ten public recreation districts — and many more.
My background: A bachelor's in engineering and a master's in business administration in mechanical-production engineering and supply chain and operations management respectively, with more than 25 years of solid consulting experience including managerial and leadership roles with firms like Cap Gemini, HP, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, Siemens Services and CSC.
Position 5 (four years)
Ali Kavianian, 37, is a certified financial planner who was elected to the board in 2015.
My family emigrated from a war-stricken Iran to the U.S. in the late 1980s. Washington County has been our home for almost 30 years. THPRD's parks, trails and programs provided a foundation for a very young version of me to find peace; I am a proud product of the district.
THPRD is an amazing asset to our community as a whole: it gathers families, provides pathways for people and critters to maneuver through the landscape and teaches life skills that help us evolve into adulthood and become caring members of our community. My passion for what THPRD is, and can be, and my devotion to accomplishing the THPRD mission is why I am running for re-election.
During the next four years I pledge to continue:
• To grow our Access for All initiative, which fosters an inclusive culture and environment, including but not limited to development disabilities, financial circumstances, and any groups or individuals who may face barriers to full participation.
• To build greater collaboration between THPRD and both public and private partners, systemically resulting in better use of taxpayer dollars.
• To enhance community communication and involvement; we will be where our users are!
• To ensure an unbiased Visioning Process, recognizing the values of our ever-evolving community and providing the services and access that they seek.
• To expand THPRD's environmental sustainability practices.
My 10-plus years of dedicated service and leadership through many community organizations like Beaverton Committee for Community Involvement, Visioning Advisory Committee, South Beaverton Neighborhood Advisory Committee, and Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce, plus the current THPRD board, along with career as a Certified Financial Planner professional have continued to help build on my skill sets for what it takes to move THPRD forward in the right direction.
Bhaskar ALuru, 52, manages ZynoSoft Inc. and has had more than 25 years of experience in information technology for many local companies including Columbia Sportswear, Intel and Nike. He is vice chairman of Community Participation Organization 7 for Washington County.
Bhaskar strongly believes communities will flourish when all people have access to facilities that support good health and active lifestyle by making parks and recreational facilities available to all.
He would like to see focused changes in THPRD to represent interests of all and as well as a growing population of diverse demographics. He believes THPRD, with the original vision of Elsie Stuhr, has a great mission to "enhance healthy and active lifestyles while connecting more people to nature, parks, and active programs.... through public resources and by providing programs and spaces to fulfill unmet needs."
Bhaskar believes THPRD has indirectly acted as a catalyst to support our communities to grow and flourish to a world-class township. Our place has been growing rapidly with very diversified population and highly talented and skilled people migrating from all over the world. Such growth needs more expansion of parks and recreational facilities with higher focus of inclusiveness for our growing diversified population.
Bhaskar is committed to enhancing THPRD with diversified community's interests and enable access to parks and recreational facilities. He will work towards bringing sports grounds for diversified interests, expanding or creating new P&R facilities in unincorporated Washington County where THPRD is serving. For the past three and half years, he has been working for North Bethany trails and parks and continuing to do so with stonewalled THPRD management.
Bhaskar has lived in the region for 20 years and has seen benefits of a healthy lifestyle for his family. He and his family use the P&R facilities regularly and very thankful to be able to access them.
Bhaskar is committed to support and encourage THPRD boundary growth and of our diversified needs and populations and seeks your vote to be elected as director for Position 5 of THPRD.
Tya Ping, 35, is a pharmacist at Kaiser Permanente.
I am a mother of three young children, a health care provider, a community volunteer, and a longtime resident of Beaverton who grew up enjoying THPRD parks and programs. THPRD has worked well for my family. But THPRD can do better.
I want to see that THPRD is making choices that better serve all of its residents and most especially our children, seniors, and underrepresented communities. Access to parks and recreation is a vital part of a healthy community — and a healthy life. At every age, community members need recreation and enrichment classes that benefit the heart, body, and mind. And as a child of immigrants/refugees, I will see that the district's programming is accessible and affordable for all ages, cultures, and backgrounds.
As a future board member I will:
• Increase access through collaboration: I will work with local organizations/partners to expand programming and investments to efficiently leverage tax dollars.
• Deepen our commitment to diversity: I will create a welcoming environment by working intentionally to increase the diversity of both our staff, patrons, and the programs and capital investments we offer.
• Fight for affordability and accessibility: I will work with leadership to revisit our pricing structure and develop more free programs and multi-use, four-season facilities.
My hope is to create and expand THPRD's offering and outreach so that every person can benefit. I will be a leader that actively engages the community and listens intently to bring community members' ideas together to improve our services and create something that everyone will have a connection to.
My dedication is why so many community leaders and organizations have endorsed my campaign. New leadership will elevate the work of THPRD — and from that, our opportunities to do better will come.
NOTE: Adds missing word in Tya Ping statement.
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