Modesto’s parks, recreation and neighborhoods director announced Monday that she is resigning to take a similar position with Vancouver, Wash., a city of about 165,000 residents along the Columbia River just north of Portland, Ore.
Julie Hannon went to work for Modesto in September 2000 as deputy director of parks, recreation and neighborhoods. She has been department director since 2009 and made $147,053 last year.
Her announcement comes the week before Modestans vote on Measure X, a 1-cent sales tax the City Council placed on the ballot. City officials say the tax is vital to restore cuts to public safety, parks and recreation, and other services that have been cut during lean budget years.
These officials say if Measure X does not pass, the city faces cutting an additional $9 million to $11 million from its general fund, which makes up about a third of the city’s $344 million operating budget. City officials have talked about closing as many as a dozen Modesto parks.
Hannon did not return a phone call and email seeking comment. She is the second top official who will be leaving Modesto. City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood announced her resignation in September after more than six years with the city. She is leaving Nov. 8 to become Stockton’s assistant city attorney.
In a news release, Modesto City Manager Greg Nyhoff said Hannon’s achievements include:
• Overseeing the remodeling of the King-Kennedy Memorial Center and the Maddux Youth Center, and the renovation of the Senior Citizens Center.
• Co-chairing the local committee for the Amgen Tour of California during the four years that the nation’s biggest bicycle race passed through Modesto.
• Overseeing the construction of Mary Grogan Community Park, which opened this year and is the city’s first community park since Beyer opened in phases starting in the late 1970s. Grogan features seven lighted soccer fields and is the new home of the Modesto Youth Soccer Association.
• Managing more than $25 million in federal funding for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding, which was designed to help communities hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.
“Julie has been a dedicated and valued member of my senior leadership team for many years,” Nyhoff said in the release. “Her enthusiasm and energy are unmatched, and her love for our community will be missed, but the numerous ways she helped improve the community are a tribute to her hard work and dedication.”
Nyhoff said a decision on an interim appointment for parks, recreation and neighborhoods has not been made.
Hannon’s department was criticized for its administration of NSP and in particular for its relationship with the Stanislaus Community Assistance Project, a nonprofit housing agency that received NSP funding from Modesto. The Bee reported on questionable spending by SCAP and the placement of the agency’s family members or staff in homes remodeled with NSP money.
The Bee recently raised questions about the department’s handling of Archway Commons, an affordable-housing complex that cost more than expected and produced half as many apartments as planned.
Hannon’s resignation is effective Nov. 22. She starts her new job as Vancouver’s parks and recreation director Dec. 3. Her salary in Vancouver will be $133,272, but Washington does not have a state income tax.
Modesto has 75 parks and more than 15 miles of bike paths, according to the city’s website.
Vancouver has about 40,000 fewer residents than Modesto. But the city has 2,138 acres of parkland, 108 parks and more than 23 miles of trails, according to a news release from the city. There is a city park within walking distance of nearly every home in Vancouver, said Barbara Ayers, the city’s communications manager.
Ayers said Vancouver has not had a permanent parks and recreation director for about a year and conducted a nationwide search to find one. She said Hannon was one of five finalists brought to the city for interviews. Hannon has 25 years of parks and recreation experience and a bachelor’s degree in parks and recreation from Western Illinois University, according to a Vancouver news release.
“I’m excited to add Julie Hannon to the city’s leadership team,” Vancouver City Manager Eric Holmes said in a news release. “She has the right skills to lead our hardworking department into an exciting new era.”