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Park Board appoints Shon Sylvia as executive director

December 13, 2016

The Board of Park Commissioners voted Dec. 12 to appoint Shon Sylvia as executive director of Metro Parks Tacoma, effective Jan. 1, 2017.

Board members praised Sylvia’s and the district’s record of accomplishments, with President Erik Hanberg calling out management of the strategic 2017-2018 budget process as the latest example of Sylvia’s leadership. The budget passed unanimously the same night. Commissioners also called attention to Sylvia’s “out-of-the-box” thinking and his development of strong partnerships with other government agencies, nonprofits and businesses.

“Shon is a data-driven visionary who knows how to turn great ideas into solid, sustainable programs and practices,” Hanberg said. “Metro Parks is on a great path, and Shon will ensure the agency remains strong and effective.”

Hanberg also pointed to the need to increase public access to programs, spaces and services by removing economic, physical and social barriers, and to Sylvia’s successes in these areas.

“We have an amazing park system,” said Sylvia, who joined Metro Parks in 1997. “Our staff members are committed to finding ways to keep improving the quality of life in every neighborhood. I look forward to continuing the great momentum we’ve created at Metro Parks.”

The Park Board had appointed Sylvia as interim executive director in September. Sylvia has held key management roles, including assistant executive director and before that director of recreation and community services. He is married and has two daughters. Before coming to Metro Parks, he worked for the City of Sunnyvale in California, coordinating the city’s youth services division.

At Metro Parks, Sylvia led the development of meaningful relationships with other agencies in ways that leveraged public and private funds to expand access for citizens and save taxpayers money. He has been a vocal supporter of Tacoma Public Schools’ Science and Math Institute, for example, which turns the Metro Parks-managed Point Defiance Park into an outdoor classroom, and for his drive to provide after-school programming on-site at schools throughout the city. Sylvia also led the development of the STAR Center in South Tacoma, and he’s excited about the Eastside Community Center, a collaboration that involves Tacoma Public Schools, the City of Tacoma, Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound and Tacoma Housing Authority and will break ground next year.

As executive director, Sylvia plans to focus on several areas, including:

  • Continuing to nurture collaborative programming with other agencies.
  • Expanding environmental programs and outreach to enhance the community’s conservation values, with a focus on sustainability.
  • Developing creative ways to identify and pursue additional resources to preserve and maintain the park district’s existing assets.

Sylvia succeeds Jack C. Wilson, who retired in September after leading the park district since 1999. The Park Board recently named the pedestrian bridge linking Point Defiance Park to Point Ruston “Wilson Way” in honor of Wilson’s dedication to providing access to citizens. The bridge is due to open in 2017.

“Shon is the consummate public servant,” said Andrea Smith, Board of Park Commissioners clerk. “When you talk with him in person, his dedication to citizens is clear. He’s exactly the person we need to lead Metro Parks.”