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Park Board President reflects on how her involvement with Metro Parks began: Park Board Notes December 2017

December 13, 2017

Since this is the time of year for giving thanks, I’d like to thank everyone for the opportunity to serve on your Board of Park Commissioners, the governing body that sets our agency’s policies and oversees its operations.

It’s a great honor to represent this outstanding organization. It also makes me think of how my involvement with Metro Parks started more than 20 years ago.

The Park Board often expresses appreciation for the thousands of volunteers who contribute the time, energy and expertise that are crucial to sustaining Metro Parks’ achievements. CHIP-in! attracts hundreds of volunteers who turn out for weekend work parties, help nurture our gardens and patrol our parks. Other dedicated folks support our recreation programs.

Less visible to outsiders are the efforts of the dozens of volunteers who belong to our four Citizen Advisory Councils and offer input on policies, operations and budgets, and Metro Parks’ five nonprofit foundations, dedicated to raising funding and providing resources to help the district carry out its mission.

Every volunteer experience is unique, but I can share my own. My volunteer commitment to Metro Parks began on the governing board of the Greater Metro Parks Foundation in 1996. I couldn’t donate a lot of money, but I could give my time.

My grade-school-age kids took swimming lessons, so I valued what Metro Parks meant to them and to other Tacoma children. Then, as now, I worked in banking, so I had enough bookkeeping know-how to be the organization’s treasurer, if needed.

One of the perks was a chance to meet Metro Parks employees and witness their dedication for myself. What I found out was that they give 110 percent every day. It doesn’t matter what the job is. They’re all pulling together for Metro Parks. This is an organization that believes community is important and the end goal is the greater good.

Along with other foundation board members, I was introduced to the range of Metro Parks activities and venues, and was briefed on the budget. I got practice in running meetings and the nuts-and-bolts of fundraising: how to identify potential donors and how to ask for money. I found out speaking in front of people wasn’t as scary as I thought.

Over time, the foundation became a more powerful fundraising force. Initially, it served only to solicit grants earmarked for Metro Parks recreation programs. By the time I left in 2011, we had raised $3.2 million for the Zina Linnik memorial project. The effort transformed McCarver Park into a welcoming Hilltop attraction for children and neighbors.

Eventually, I served the foundation as its treasurer, and later as its president and secretary. Also during that time, I campaigned in support of bond and levy measures to benefit Metro Parks. I was a treasurer of Neighbors for Parks, the political action group that supported the successful 2005 bond campaign and the 2010 levy lift. Working on those campaigns gave me the confidence to run for election myself. I have twice been elected to the Metro Parks board.

I’d like to encourage other supporters of Metro Parks to make a commitment to a foundation or Citizen Advisory Council. You’ll get as much out of it as you give, and Metro Parks leaders will appreciate and utilize your talents. The opportunities are both numerous and varied. No matter what your passion, you’ll be able to identify a suitable niche. You’re likely to discover, as I did, that the effort yields its own reward.

Andrea Smith was first elected to the five-member Metro Parks Board of Park Commissioners in 2011 and in November was re-elected to a second six-year term. She also is finishing a yearlong term as Board President.