Paula DeMoss, president of the Key Peninsula Metropolitan Park District since its spring 2004 inception, resigned in December. She said she had stretched herself too thin by working two jobs, and her family life was suffering.
“I do not believe in staying in a position you cannot give full attention to. That park district cannot afford to have a single commissioner who does not give it the full attention,” DeMoss said in an interview. “I have to give somewhere. I can’t give of my career. I love both my jobs; they’re inspirational.”
DeMoss, a Peninsula High School graduate who grew up on the Key Peninsula, has been teaching music at Minter Creek Elementary School, and this school year took on the job as director for the newly created Peninsula High School band. She said between the jobs that entail 16-hour work schedules, and her three sons — two of whom are in college — she cannot have a family life and dedicate herself to her park district job.
“I’m still going to be a supporter of the park district,” she said.
In her resignation letter, she wrote, in part: “I would like to recognize the wonderful people I have had the benefit to work with. The community has outstanding opportunities ahead but is burdened by many ‘old’ ways. My wish is that the community work together in support of the park system so it may continue to grow. I give my full support to the park district as a citizen.”
DeMoss came under scrutiny last year following concerns by some local residents that she moved out of the jurisdiction and should not remain as president. However, at a hearing challenging her voter registration, she provided proof of a Key Peninsula address and the challenge was dismissed. The challenge came on the heels of highly publicized criticism of a resolution allowing commissioners to accept a stipend, although DeMoss herself did not take any payment.
DeMoss said even with the setback and her personal life being exposed, she has received support from many community members. Despite comments that she felt were “unnecessary,” she said, “You don’t do things like that to be appreciated but because you believe in it.”
DeMoss addressed the park district’s biggest struggles: limited funding and lack of public involvement. She said the public doesn’t realize that a lot of the budget goes toward improving Volunteer Park after years of shoestring operations, and toward upkeep. She gave kudos to the volunteers who have kept the park going with hardly any money for years, but said “to run that park effectively, it costs the amount we get from the zoo/trek tax.” There is not enough money, however, to acquire new parks, she said.
DeMoss is concerned with lack of public participation. She said she has seen about 30 people supporting the proposed 360-acre park, but “25-30 people don’t represent 17,000.”
“It’s hard to get people encouraged to get out and give time,” she said.
Kip Clinton, who becomes de facto president until new officer elections are held, said, “I want to thank Paula for all the effort she has put into the formation of the new park district. She has been extremely important and influential but I can understand… and I know the rest of the board understands that family comes first… She has been a rock. She has been attacked and I applaud her for sticking it out.”
DeMoss’s letter was submitted to the county in December, and her resignation was set to be accepted at the Jan. 8 park board meeting. DeMoss was the second commissioner to resign last year. Jerry Schick, who was also commissioner with the old park district, resigned in August, while criticizing park operations and expressing frustration over the direction of the district.
“I wish we had more citizen involvement… to take some pressure off commissioners. We’ve lost two commissioners this year (2006) due to burnout,” Clinton said.
The board will need to appoint a new commissioner to fill DeMoss’ turn until the November election, at which time two other seats (Caril Ridley’s and Elmer Anderson’s) will also be up for reelection.
Clinton said she hopes the other three candidates from the last appointment (to Schick’s spot) reapply, along with new candidates. “The more candidates, the better selection we can make,” she said.