Ken Warner named parks director for West Linn
Though the West Linn Parks & Recreation Department lost one half of its two-Ken team with the retirement of Parks Director Ken Worcester at the end of October, City residents can rest easy knowing the department is in the hands of the other half of the duo, longtime assistant director Ken Warner.
After 26 years with the department, Warner was named permanent director Tuesday, Nov. 19, following a stint as interim director after Worcester's retirement.
"I'm very proud to be the director," Warner said. "Through the years, with Ken's (Worcester's) leadership we've had a great run."
Warner was hired by the City in 1993 as its first recreation coordinator.
"Ken told me years later that I was the second choice, but we think it worked out," Warner joked. "I was put in a 10-by-20 room with a table and a notepad and a pen and Ken said, 'Let's build a rec program.'"
It's been a slow process, but Warner is proud of the rec program built by the West Linn parks team. He said he's glad that the community has accepted the programming and participated at such high rates.
Not long after Warner got the rec program off the ground, a couple community members came to the parks department wanting to address the community's need for more space to put all of these programs. To accommodate these needs, they built the Adult Community Center, which Warner said is one of the proudest achievements of his parks and rec tenure. The ACC has served the people of West Linn well since it opened in 2003. The center is nearly always full, whether it's for a neighborhood association meeting, community dance, fitness classes, game night, lunch or dinner.
Even with all the use the ACC gets, the community is starting to outgrow the center and could use a rec center as well, Warner said.
"Our programmers are working hard to hold all the different classes that people want but we don't have facilities to put them in," Warner said. "Schools are getting very difficult to partner with because of specialized classrooms and we understand that."
Through the years, people in West Linn have expressed strong support for a community center, especially with a pool, he said.
"We know that they want a place where their kids can go after school and gather and kind of have that homey feel of a community center versus a private club where you have to pay to walk in the door," Warner said"
Warner said the other project he's most proud of is the other facility that gets the most use: the Tanner Creek skatepark.
"There was maybe one or two other skate parks of that type in the state of Oregon back in 1999. It was a fun approach, working with the kids, to create what they wanted," he said. "We talked to the kids, listened to what they wanted and then hired one of the leading skate park developers in the nation at that time."
Other than the rec center, Warner said he had a few other goals for the parks department, but mostly he wants to keep it moving in the same direction.
"I really want to continue what we've been doing. We have a very hard-working staff that does everything they are asked and more. One thing that I would like to address is staffing levels."
Warner said he recognizes the budget constraints, but parks maintenance staff has been burdened by too much work for too long.
"We haven't reduced our staff in anyway but, every year we either add more acreage or more amenities, so it equates to the same thing," he said.
The new director added that there are a couple areas where he would like to work on efficiency as well. He noted that the parks department has been working with IT to automate some routine checks so that it's not so time-consuming to transfer data and pictures.
Warner mentioned two things that are especially great about working in the West Linn parks department: the staff and the appreciation of the community.
"Through the years we've had such a small rate of turnover in our parks and rec department that working with our staff has been phenomenal," he said, before adding that the department is really like a family.
Of the West Linn community he said, "When we build parks, they really appreciate it. When we put on events, they show up; they appreciate it. That's been really gratifying."
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