Doug Levy is Saying Goodbye

This is a tale about profound gratitude, mixed emotions, evolving toward new journeys, and excitement over what lies ahead. 

But the now comes before the later, so let’s start at the beginning: This memorandum is to let you all know, officially, that I will not be seeking
a renewal of my longstanding contract with WRPA that ends on Dec. 31, 2022.

As I signaled, I share that news with very mixed emotions. I’ve represented WRPA’s interests for a decade and a half and I have loved my time working with and for so many wonderful people within the local parks profession. We have accomplished a great deal together – more on that in just a bit.

But first, I want to convey why it is that I am doing what I am doing.

The already-legendary Sue Bird explained in her “retirement” news conference (more below on why I so dislike that word) that you need to know when to say when. Despite the fact that I will tremendously miss the people, the projects, and the issues that have driven me to do government affairs and lobbying work for so long, I think now is a very appropriate time to say ‘when.’ So, why is that?

Well, for one thing, the end of 2022 will mark 40 years of hard work in the “8-to-5” world (or, for me, probably more like the 4 a.m. to 6-7 p.m. world). That’s a lot. Additionally, I think the pandemic called COVID-19 and the way-too-soon passing of my older brother at age 66 reinforced that life as we know it can change on a dime. One never really knows what tomorrow will bring or even how many ‘tomorrows’ there will be.

There’s one more major factor. It goes beyond the fact that my wife and I are enjoying great health and that we are incredibly excited about traveling more of the world than we already have. It also goes beyond our desire to snowbird in warm-weather locations a couple months a year to sidestep the rainiest months of the Pacific Northwest calendar.

If you cut me open, you will find a writer at my inner core. Writing is something I enjoy, something I am blessed to do fairly well. I have told myself for many years that I would like to write a book – or more precisely, a few of them. However, the reality is there has never been time. Further, there never will be, if I don’t carve it out and create it. I would like to try my hand at writing a few non-fiction books. Yes, I have specific topics I want to write about. But no, I am not ready to share them, because in my view, until I have done something in terms of writing a book, talking about all the lofty books I am going to write seems like just that: talk. I need to prove there will be action and produce something, which is when it makes more sense in my judgement to discuss it.

So hopefully that gives you a sense of why, as I approach age 61, I plan to cut the cord on the workday life I have known for four decades. I will not be “retiring,” because I don’t believe in that word and I feel it comes from an era like the 1940s, not the one we reside in today. I think of what I am doing as more of a pivot than a retirement. My aunt referred to it as a new cycle, and others speak of a new journey. I like those words, too – almost as much as I like the word ‘evolving,’ one Serena Williams used to explain that her otherworldly professional tennis career was drawing to a close.

My evolution, as I noted above, will involve writing.  I also want to continue to do some consulting that doesn’t involve lobbying in Olympia – and perhaps that can involve some projects I can do for WRPA (along with making myself available to others).

Let me transition, though, from the “me” to a humble section of “we,” because whatever I have given of myself to WRPA, I can assure you I have received more in return from all of you. That’s the ‘profound gratitude’ part of this memo. There are far more names than I can mention, but the fantastic interactions with local parks leaders throughout the state is what I will miss so much.  The tough days and the long hours will melt away, but the memories of so many kind, talented, smart, and caring people I have had the privilege to work with – those memories will remain and I will be forever grateful for them.

Together, I feel like we have done so much for local parks and recreation. I have tried very hard throughout my career not to be a pat-myself-on-the-back personality, but I am enormously proud of projects we have worked on and things we have achieved and funding we have secured as a team. I will clearly forget some, but they include the re-establishment of the Youth Athletic Facilities (YAF) program after it had gone dormant; record high levels of funding for the WWRP and the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account (ALEA) and the No Child Left Inside programs; pulling off two rounds of “SEEK” grants in coordination with the Association of Washington Cities; money to establish a first-ever statewide trails database; legislation to make Washington the fourth state in the union with an Outdoor Recreation Adviser in the Governor’s Office; new authority for local parks agencies on employment background checks; legislation to grant name-and-address privacy for youth and families who enroll their kids in things like swim programs; a “gender equity” bill we felt good about; a higher profile for WRPA through the Outdoor Recreation Caucus and our role as a founding member of the Big Tent Outdoor Recreation Coalition; and numerous others that have made things better for local parks and recreation professionals.

Those are the projects that spurred me to get up in the morning and do the work. Lucky me for being fortunate enough to work with you on all of them!

As I get ready to take new steps in my journey, I know there is still much to do these next few months – and you have my 1000% commitment to set WRPA up for success. I feel really good about a state lobbyist we have worked on landing – one that will be for the President and the Executive Board to announce. I am going to throw myself into ensuring that the person who comes after me will have all the tools and all the knowledge necessary to get great things done for WRPA. It’s what you need, but more than that, it’s what you deserve.

I close this memo with that odd combination of excitement and sadness. I am of course excited about the “pivots” ahead, but I will inevitably carry sadness in having a day-to-day relationship with many of you subside. Professional partnerships like these are the only ones I have known for multiple decades, and there will be sorrow in seeing them pause – though, I hope, not come to a full stop. For now, though, my cup overflows with gratitude. For all that you may think I have done to assist you, know that what you have done for me is immeasurable. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


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