James King is resigning as Director of Bellingham Parks and Recreation effective October 16 - two weeks from now. NWCitizen has confirmed that he is leaving after we received a copy of an email he sent to some other park staff. In it he wrote he has accepted a job with the U.S. Forest Service in Alaska.
King came to Bellingham from Alaska. Sarah Palin, as governor of Alaska, appointed him the state parks director in 2007. He served until 2010, shortly after she resigned, and then took a position with a municiple parks department in Alaska. Exactly 4 years ago in early October 2011, then mayor Dan Pike of Bellingham appointed him to his present job. Pike then lost his bid for reelection a month later and King has served his time under mayor Kelli Linville.
As Bellingham parks chief, he has several times stimulated issues that became heated. One was shortly after taking his job. He decided that some community gardens were too expensive for the city to support and announced dates for financial cuts to take place. He tended to act without working with citizen groups. The push back on the community garden's folks resulted in things staying pretty much the same. He estimated $10,000 a year could be saved.
In 2012 the parks department started building a fence in Boulevard Park along the railroad tracks. Construction stopped when BNSF railroad told the city the fence was on their land and to stop. The estimated $10,000 in costs installing about 100 cedar posts in concrete bases offset other perceived savings. The unfinished fence to nowhere remains to this day.
This writer had several tussles with King as he continued to raise rents for events in city parks, particularly the Fairhaven Village Green. His desired rents were so high as to cause some events to consider cancelling. He seemed to not grasp that community groups added real value by putting in the efforts on events. The new annual Steampunk Festival almost had to cancel because of the rent hikes they faced. The Historic Fairhaven Asociation then became a sponsor of the Steampunks in order to secure the Green at an affordable rate. I was personally involved in these park fee issues.
Mayor Kelli Linville now has the opportunity to appoint a new parks director. She can do this without council approval. The salary is well over $100,000 a year. The last three parks directors have all been chosen from well outside the Bellingham and even Washington State areas.