Nearly two years into her tenure, Taylor McDonald’s last day as director of the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center is March 29.
The Virginia native resigned for personal reasons related to her family.
“It took me leaving to realize that Virginia is my home,” McDonald said.
SARC’s board of directors learned of her leaving on March 13 and plans to solicit for a new director immediately with ads in aquatic trade publications.
“I’m sad to see her go but happy for her decision,” said Susan Sorensen, SARC board chairman. “Family in my opinion is No. 1 in anyone’s life.”
Board members intend to find a replacement for McDonald, who replaced retired longtime director Sue Jacobs in May 2011.
They’ve set a tentative timeline for the end of April as a cutoff for applications that are mailed in or dropped off at SARC’s front desk.
McDonald is evaluating her position’s criteria for the board but won’t be involved in the hiring process.
She plans to move back to Virginia on April 1 and work for the City of Hampton, Va., as its aquatics coordinator for three indoor aquatic facilities and two beaches.
McDonald said SARC’s alleged financial crunch with limited funds in reserves had nothing to do with her decision.
She said that was part of her decision to come to Sequim.
“I’m bummed I’m leaving because that’s such a big learning experience,” she said. “A lot of recreation departments are getting kicked to the curb because of the bad economy. I wanted to learn how to do it without the constant taxing but I didn’t make it.”
Any future applicant, Sorensen said, needs to be aware of the financial decisions the board must make in the coming years.
“But I don’t see how that financial decision will affect us finding someone new,” she said.
“They should come to the table fully aware of what’s going on.”
As SARC’s financial situation becomes increasingly known, Sorensen said, they must continue to remind people the pool was built with public funds.
“A lot of people who recently moved to the area aren’t aware it was built with public finances,” she said.
“They think incorrectly it was built with private money. We haven’t received taxpayer money since 2003.”
McDonald said now is the time for the board to re-evaluate the hard direction they want to go financially.
“It’s an exciting time,” she said.
With McDonald leaving, board member Jan Richardson said she’s left SARC with a new sense of community.
“The personality of the place became more pleasant and compatible with the people and a more caring disposition to the people,” he said. “But I think she learned a lot from the people here in Sequim, too.”
McDonald said she’ll miss the people in town most of all.
“The volunteerism is pretty incredible seeing people go above and beyond for their neighbors,” she said.
During her tenure, McDonald started programs that Sorensen sees as positive additions, such as the Kids Zone, an on-site child care program; recurring payments that split memberships into monthly payments; and year-round swim teams for adults and children.
Sorensen said Jacobs tried to implement the recurring payment program during her tenure but credit card fees were cost-prohibitive at the time.
“They’ve been a huge bonus for SARC because a lot of people go month-to-month and going a little bit at a time makes it a little more manageable,” she said.
Since the month-to-month plan was implemented early last year, more than 100 people are signed up for the program.
Along with programs, Sorensen said McDonald improved staff morale.
“She’s always smiling, always positive. That’s what always impressed us,” Sorensen said. “She’s always looking for a way to get around a problem so that everyone wins.”
Richardson maintains the board picked the right person when hiring McDonald.
“(Sequim) is just not a place for a young, intelligent, single person,” he said. “We possibly might need to look into that for the next person.”
McDonald is a graduate of East Carolina University with a bachelor’s degree in recreation management and had more than 10 years of experience in management and operations of aquatic facilities on her resume when SARC hired her.
For more information about the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center, 610 N. Fifth Ave., call 683-3344 or visit www.sarcfitness.com.