After almost 30 years building Marysville’s parks and recreation offerings, Jim Ballew, the city’s first Parks and Recreation Director, retired on Sept. 25.
Ballew was hired in November of 1989.
“The city only had two parks at the time and a golf course,” he said.
The only parks in the city at the time were Comeford Park and Jennings Park.
“We had just a couple of parks and a maintenance program basically,” said Gloria Hirashima, chief administrative officer with the city of Marysville and one of Ballew’s longtime co-workers.
Now, Marysville had more than 30 parks comprising 487 acres
“He did amazing things during his tenure,” said Hirashima.
It was a long journey for both the city and Ballew.
“When I got here the population of the city was about 9,600 and now it’s more than 60,000,” said Ballew.
He was hired to be the city’s first Parks and Recreation director.
“My first office here was actually at a renovated chicken coop,” said Ballew.
“There were some days it got so hot in there that I had to send some people home,” he said.
He wrote on a typewriter at first. “I bought my own Macintosh to work on,” which was shared between three employees before it broke down, after which the city bought the department some computers.
The City Council eventually authorized the purchase of a former real estate office, which was moved to Jennings Park where it still stands today.
Throughout the years Ballew’s department has brought a number of new programs to the city.
“He’s brought a lot to the community like Touch A Truck, the holiday parade, and the Tour of Lights,” said Tom King, City Council member and frequent Kiwanis Club and Strawberry Festival volunteer.
Ballew said he was happy with all the recreation offerings he was able to provide.
“I’m proud of all those nice, little family outings we provide,” he said. “And the fact that we’ve kept them free or very low-cost and affordable.”
Events like the outdoor movie nights have become very popular and Ballew said he was happy to work with local service clubs like the Soroptimists and Kiwanis clubs.
“On behalf of the Strawberry Festival, he’s done a lot to help us over the years as well,” said King.
Ballew said he was also proud of events like Healthy Communities Day which promotes health options in the city.
“We were looking at our community’s health and what we could do about that,” he said.
Ballew is also excited about two projects that are still continuing after his departure.
“I can’t wait to see the development of the Ebey Waterfront Park,” he said.
The city of Marysville acquired the property for Mother Nature’s Window and Ballew said he is also excited about seeing that turning into a park eventually.
Locals said that they will miss Ballew.
“He’s been a real asset to the community,” said King.
“He’s always been personally involved with the events here, always helping to set them up, which I’ve always appreciated,” he said.
King also said he appreciated how much Ballew listens.
“He always had an open-door policy. If you had an idea he would listen to what you had to say and if he thought it was viable he would run with it,” he said.
Hirashima appreciated how much Ballew helped the city grow.
“In terms of the community he just embodies the Marysville spirit,” she said.
“I will miss his enthusiasm and creativity, and his desire to reach new heights with this community,” she said.
Ballew is moving to La Conner, Wash., where he plans to do traveling and boating.
“Today’s my last day and I’m going to miss the people that are here,” he said.
Longtime Marysville parks employee and former assistant director Tara Mizell will step into the role of director of Marysville’s Parks, Culture and Recreation Department.
“He did a fantastic job of developing his team,” said Hirashima.
“I’m really pleased with where the department is headed as well,” said Ballew. “It’s been a blessed career. And everyone I work with here has been responsible for our successes."