Doug Nelson’s final day at the Federal Way Community Center was almost exactly 13 years to the day of his hiring.
“At times it seemed like it went by really fast, but then you remember all the things we did and seems like a pretty long run,” Nelson said on his last day with the city on Dec. 4.
Nelson, the community center manager for the city of Federal Way, accepted a new position as the executive director of the Peninsula Metropolitan Park District in early November.
“The [PenMet] park district is really growing and there’s some huge opportunities over there,” Nelson said. “It’s a relatively young district — it started in 2004 — but they’re in a really good place with some pretty spectacular land acquisitions and a pretty recent purchase … of some property to build a new recreation center.”
“I’m really excited for this new venture,” he added.
Cody Geddes, recreation manager for the Federal Way Community Center, will be the facility’s interim manager until the city fills the position. The city of Federal Way is advertising the position both locally and nationally through the National Recreation and Park Association.
The facility is a gem of the community, said John Hutton, Parks director for the city, and the Pacific Northwest region itself is quite desirable. The community center currently has 4,519 members and sees approximately 1,500 people a day, he noted.
While the city is not opposed to hiring an internal or local candidate, they believe it is important to not limit the search either, Hutton said.
“Sometimes it’s good to find out what level [of talent] there is from other sources that you don’t see every day,” he said. “We want to see what’s out there and gauge interest.”
The position announcement closes on Dec. 20.
The city is tentatively looking to conduct interviews mid-January with hiring a new manager in the beginning of February, Hutton said.
As a Pacific Northwest native, Nelson grew up on Bainbridge Island and attended Pacific Lutheran University where he earned a bachelor’s in business administration with a minor in exercise science. Nelson is an all-around fitness guru who enjoys running and cycling to yoga and pilates.
Standing in an evening drizzle on Federal Way’s new Town Center Steps last Wednesday, Nelson opened his umbrella and recounted a list of accomplishments from his time in Federal Way.
One of his top successes was how the facility developed strong relationships among staff and customers, followed by the financial responsibility of the facility.
“The challenges we faced from a budgetary standpoint and the achievements we made there … I’m really proud of that,” he said, adding: “You never know what building is going to do until you open it.”
Midway through his career, Nelson took on additional responsibilities held by the previous community center superintendent — one of which was managing and planning the city’s annual Red, White and Blues Festival with his team.
Nelson’s first day at the Federal Way Community Center was Dec. 1, 2006.
He was hired as a center supervisor and later promoted to manager in 2014. Along the way, he also taught multiple fitness classes, such as indoor spinning, weight training and functional fitness.
“I didn’t realize it at the time. I just thought it was a way to get a good workout in and provide great instruction,” Nelson said.
“But it turned out to be a really important part of my manager role. It helped me connect with customers on a level that made them feel real comfortable talking with me and we built a strong level of respect for one another, versus if I was just the guy in the office …”
Community and fitness have been his hand-in-hand core beliefs, even prior to his career in Federal Way. He previously worked as a recreation and fitness coordinator for Metro Parks Tacoma and was a rowing coach at Pacific Lutheran University.
“To me it’s the connection you make with the people and how the programs and services and facilities help connect the community,” he said. “It creates a very natural way for people to get together in either a healthy or constructive, oftentimes fun environment.”
It sounds simple or easy to do, but it does require quality professional programs and places to do so, Nelson said.
“I feel fortunate to have a career doing that, I don’t take that for granted.”
As a parting message to Federal Way, Nelson encouraged the community to be advocates for parks and recreation: “Continue to support Parks. Whether it’s a playground or a program or a special event or a facility. We really enjoy the service that we provide and we can’t do it unless people show up …”