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Griffiths, Smith battle for THPRD's Position 4 seat on board

Timing is at the heart of the race for the Position 4 seat on Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District Board of Directors.

While challenger Jeffrey S. Smith would like to see the park district pace itself in acquiring new property, incumbent John Griffiths believes time is of the essence to get the most bang for 2008 voter-approved bond measure funds.

The Beaverton Valley Times caught up with both candidates this week to talk about the direction they would like to see the park district go if voters support their bid for office in Tuesday's special election.

Griffiths says district is in 'a golden era'

Griffiths, who has worked for Intel Corp. for more than two decades, is seeking his fourth consecutive four-year term in his Position 4 seat on the park district board.

'I came in with a passion for conservation and have developed a fondness for the team sport and programming aspects of the district as well,' he said of his time on the board. 'I feel like we've done a lot in adding facilities, programs, natural areas and trails over the years.

'We've also done a good job in providing more offerings in sports, hobbies and creative recreation opportunities, as well. We have good people running great programs.'

The reputation of the district is at a high, he added, pointing to the passage of a $100 million bond measure approved by voters in 2008. That funding is earmarked for land acquisition and dozens of improvement projects focused on parks, trails, natural area preservation and athletic fields. The measure also supports expansions of the Elsie Stuhr Center and the Conestoga Recreation and Aquatic Center, and replacement and rehabilitation of aging facilities.

'That funding comes at a time when the cost of land, labor, construction and materials have taken a big dive,' said Griffiths, who lives in Southwest Beaverton. 'We are being able to purchase property and hire consultants for significantly less than we anticipated, which means we're getting more miles of trails and park acreage.

'We want to over-deliver on our bond commitments and have more to show than originally expected.'

In the end, he is committed to ensuring the park district continues to provide high-quality services in the best facilities while also being responsive to the growing needs of a diverse community.

One of the keys will be to continue to increase partnering efforts with other organizations, such as the city of Beaverton, Metro regional government and the Portland Timbers Major League Soccer team.

'Knowing that I am contributing to the mission makes my time on the board very much worthwhile,' Griffiths said. 'I've been having a lot of fun.'

Smith says this is not the time to buy

After being involved in others' political campaigns for years, Smith decided it was time for him to step up to the plate to challenge Griffiths for his position.

'I believe we have an excellent park and recreation district, but I'm concerned that in slow economic times, buying more property is not the best use of funds,' the Tanasbourne resident said of his reasons for running. 'At this time and in these circumstances, I think that's enough for now. We need to maintain what we have.'

As part of that maintenance, he would like to see the district invest in making more of its parks and trails ADA accessible with the appropriate restroom accommodations.

'Right now the district is out of balance in that area, and I would prefer to see a little more development that way,' said Smith, who previously served as chairman of the Washington County Disabled Services Advisory Council.

He also feels the park district needs to do a better job of communicating with the public about what it has to offer.

'In many ways, Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation is our best-kept secret,' said Smith, who volunteers with the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce, offering job seeker support and networking opportunities. 'A lot of people don't know about parks in their own neighborhoods and what services are available to them.

'The park district needs to get the word out and be more active rather than passive.'

That includes doing a better job of recruiting volunteers to aid in sprucing up parks, trails and other facilities throughout the district.

As the two candidates have never met, Smith said he held no specific complaints about the service Griffiths has provided to the district.

'I just think the board needs a little bit different direction,' Smith said. 'I have some things I would like to see considered.'

While Smith has never attended a park district board meeting or been involved with one of THPRD's advisory committees, he said he has invested a fair amount of time familiarizing himself with key issues.

'I am committed to win it,' he said. 'I understand the bond issue and have educated myself on the district's budget process.

'We need to deal with maintaining and improving what we have now and push off buying new land for another day.'