Leslie Bryson, City of Bellingham Parks and Recreation Director, has announced her intention to retire effective January 3, 2020. Bryson has been employed by the City of Bellingham since June 1994 when she was hired as the first Parks Development Manager. She implemented a variety of park projects during her career with the City including the South Bay, Railroad, Interurban and Whatcom Creek Trails, Taylor Dock, as well as acquiring properties that preserve many of Bellingham’s unique qualities. Bryson was also instrumental in adding parks and trails in the Cordata neighborhood and in the development of the award-winning downtown waterfront park known as Waypoint Park.
“My tenure with the City has been a rewarding experience, working with a community who places such a high value on parks and recreation and with dedicated, talented staff who love what they do,” Bryson said. “Together we have opened 12 new parks, built 20 miles of trails, preserved an additional 850 acres of open space natural areas and acquired the 2,200-acre recreation and conservation easements on Galbraith Mountain. Finishing my final four years with the City as Parks and Recreation Director has been the capstone of my 42-year career in local government.”
“I fell in love with Bellingham during my first visit,” Bryson said. “I’m thankful to Mayor Kelli for giving me the opportunity to serve under her leadership along with an outstanding team of city employees.”
Mayor Kelli Linville has selected Nicole Oliver to be the Interim Parks and Recreation Director following the retirement of Bryson on January 3.
“The City of Bellingham and its residents were served well by Leslie’s tenure as parks director,” Mayor Linville said. “Our community loves our parks, and Leslie had the passion and commitment to make sure that our community had access to parks, trails and recreational programs. We will miss her. I am pleased to appoint Nicole as interim director. I have worked with Nicole in many city capacities, and she has always put the community’s interests first. I believe she will be a good interim director to continue what Leslie has started.”
As a City of Bellingham employee for over 20 years, Oliver is an accomplished project manager, supervisor and strategic planner who worked in several other departments before joining the Parks and Recreation Department in July 2016 as the Development Manager. From 2015 to 2018, she served on the Whatcom County Planning Commission and was elected Chair for three of those years.
Her prior positions at the City include Permit Center Business Analyst, Development Specialist and Communications Coordinator for the Planning and Community Development Department, Project and Training Manager for the IT Department, and Legislative Coordinator for the City Council. Before working at the City, she was a paralegal in Seattle and Bellingham.
Oliver has lived in Washington State most of her life. She graduated from the University of Washington with an English degree and obtained a Master of Arts in Political Science and Environmental Studies from Western Washington University.
Nicole Oliver has been appointed as Interim Parks Director