New county parks chief emphasizes outreach

August 31, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

Christie True

The county Department of Natural Resources and Parks director handles a bulging portfolio: park and trail maintenance, habitat restoration, water quality monitoring, flood prevention, and the unglamorous tasks associated with treating wastewater and handling garbage.

Christie True said she looks forward to the challenge. King County Executive Dow Constantine appointed the veteran wastewater employee to the top job in July. True settled into the role July 12.

“Christie is well known for her work ethic, her leadership skills and her record of getting big jobs done,” Constantine said in a statement.

The agency manages more than 4,000 acres near Issaquah in Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, Cedar Hills Regional Landfill, trails and other county-run parks.

The sprawling department is divided into divisions for parks and recreation, solid waste, wastewater treatment, and water and land resources.

True said the department has a responsibility to enrich the quality of life for county residents, in addition to providing essential services.

“We’re the connection between who live and work in our area and the natural environment,” the Washington native said.

Before Constantine selected True to succeed interim chief Bob Burns, she led the Wastewater Treatment Division — a department she joined in 1984 as a water quality technician, a decade before Metro and the county merged. The wastewater division serves 1.5 million customers throughout King County.

True supervised more than 600 employees as director, and led the team behind the Brightwater project — a $1.8-billion treatment plant under construction near Woodinville and the largest expansion of the regional wastewater system since the 1960s.

For the colossal public-works project, the National Association of Home Builders — a trade association — named True as the Local Official of the Year for 2006.

Constantine said she stood out among the candidates, because she had experience managing big projects and bigger budgets, plus technical expertise to tackle challenges.

“We are fortunate to have someone of Christie’s caliber in our ranks and I am pleased that she has accepted this opportunity to continue her track record of accomplishments with King County,” he said.

The county parks system includes more than 25,000 acres of parks and open space, plus more than 200 miles of trails. True said community engagement and partnerships play critical roles in a successful program.

“When it comes to our parks system, we absolutely have to have a relationship with the community,” she said.

King County Council members must approve the appointment. The legislation has been referred to the council Environment and Transportation Committee, but a final decision might not come until mid-September.

Deputy County Executive Fred Jarrett praised True upgrading wastewater infrastructure and improving the bond rating for the Wastewater Treatment Division — and getting lower interest rates to save taxpayer dollars.

“Christie was not only instrumental in advancing critical sewage treatment infrastructure that will serve growth and protect regional water quality for decades to come, but she played a key role in innovative efforts to involve WTD employees in an efficiency program that is improving our bond ratings and saving ratepayers money,” he said in a statement.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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