After 34 years as a city employee, adult community center coordinator is retiring

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Lynn DePretto stands outside the West Linn Adult Community Center, where she has worked as a coordinator for nearly six years. Six years ago, when Lynn DePretto first stepped into the role of program coordinator at the West Linn Adult Community Center, she remembers being “scared out of her mind.”

She had spent the previous 28 years working in the city’s finance department, and very few of her tasks there overlapped with her new responsibilities at the adult community center. Though DePretto had yearned for a change of scenery, the reality of it all was overwhelming in the early days.

Now, as DePretto prepares to retire at the end of June, that sense of apprehension has given way to warm appreciation of the relationships she’s built over the years. The personal interactions with the center’s clientele are what she’ll miss about the job, far more than the administrative duties that often had to wait until late in the day when the center was closed and quiet.

“It’s the only job I know of where I get paid to talk, paid to listen,” DePretto said.

Indeed, it didn’t take long for the center’s regulars to place their trust in DePretto, and they often prefaced conversations with, “Now, this is just between the two of us.”

At times, when these conversations revolved around city matters, DePretto was able to act as a bridge between the community center and city hall.

“She brought a lot of city history and expertise, which was really helpful,” Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester said. “She just brought a good stabilizing dynamic over there.”

Worcester and the parks department now face the task of replacing that stabilizing force, while also rearranging the community center’s laundry list of duties, as DePretto’s coordinator position shifts to part time under the city’s latest budget.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - A part-time coordinator will take Lynn DePretto's place at her desk when she retires at the end of June.

Both DePretto and Worcester said that daily operations at the community center won’t be affected much by the budget cuts. The part-time coordinator will still be on site during the center’s 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. hours, while some planning and administrative tasks will shift over to the parks department at city hall.

“It sounds like, ‘Oh my god, somebody’s only there two days a week,’ ” DePretto said. “Well, it won’t be like that. There will be somebody here every day. On some days, maybe somebody from city hall will come and open up ... and volunteers do a huge amount here.”

Worcester said the goal is to hire DePretto’s replacement at least two weeks before her departure at the end of June, which would allow for job shadowing time to smooth the transition.

The parks department is also working to expand the adult community center by adding more classroom and storage space.

Though the center obtained funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s community development block grant program last year, it remains about $250,000 short, according to Worcester.

The hope is that the $600,000 expansion project will be fully funded within about two years. Worcester said the parks department will use any profits made from the sale of a surplus property on Dodge Way to help fund the project.

Of course, DePretto will be well into retirement by then. She’s expecting another grandchild any day now, and plans to spend the bulk of her free time with family — be it at vacation houses on the coast and in central Oregon or just around West Linn, where her children still reside.

It’s the little things she’s looking forward to, like not having to set an alarm clock every morning.

What she’ll miss are the interactions that come after that clock goes off.

“It’s been wonderful,” DePretto said. “That will be the hardest part of leaving.”

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