After just a year on the job, Mountlake Terrace Senior Center Director Marlene Maier confirmed Monday, June 4 that she is resigning, effective June 15.
Maier’s status was the subject of a lengthy Mountlake Terrace City Council discussion at the end of its May 31 work/study session. Mountlake Terrace Mayor Jerry Smith said that Maier resigned as a result of an ongoing conflict with the senior center board about how the center should be operated.
Smith and Councilmember Laura Sonmore expressed frustration at the news, noting that the council in mid-April signed a new five-year lease with the senior center that was based, in part, on Maier’s accomplishments during her first year as executive director.
During an April 12 report to the council, Maier described her efforts to make the senior center more visible in the community, and to expand its offerings, which now include clogging and crafts classes, a book club, yoga and tai chi.
On April 16, the council agreed to renew the city’s lease with the senior center for the Mickey Corso Community Clubhouse at Ballinger Park. Terms were the same as the former five-year lease — a charge of $1,500 a month. The senior center can also get rent credit for capital improvements it makes to the facility. The city retains the right to use the clubhouse’s Lakeview Room for public meetings, open houses, special events or classes at no cost.
Sonmore and Smith said May 31 they were worried about the senior center’s financial stability, and that it could affect its ability to meet its rental obligations.
“We’ve got to do something,” Smith said.
City Manager Scott Hugill told councilmembers the city can’t terminate the contract as long as the senior center — which is a nonprofit entity — is complying with the terms of the contract. He suggested inviting senior center board members to a future council work/study session, where there could be a discussion about council’s concerns. “We start with a conversation and see where that leads,” Hugill said.
Councilmember Bryan Wahl agreed. “The challenge is that it’s a private entity,” Wahl said. “We can’t choose the board. If people want to change the direction of the senior center they have to get involved with the senior center and change from within.”
Councilmemebers asked Hugill to invite the senior center board to the council’s next work/study session.
In confirming her resignation in an email to MLTnews Monday, Maier did not address reports of conflict with the board. She described Mountlake Terrace as “an amazing, welcoming community, full of support,” adding that the city “has a strong belief that personal opinions should be counted and people of all cultures and ages do matter.”
“The majority of the people that I have met, have been extremely supportive, which has given my staff and I the opportunities to make some positive changes at the center,” Maier said. “I have found that life is always an interesting journey, sometimes it is smooth and other times it is a bumpy learning experience. One thing that I learned during this process is that ‘A warm hug, a question of concern, a smile and the message that things will get better…’ is worth more than anything you can buy. Remember to enjoy each other, listen to each other and celebrate the differences.”
The Mountlake Terrace Senior Center Executive Board said in a statement Monday that it accepted Maier’s “unexpected resignation with regret.” A process is underway to hire a new executive director for the senior center, the statement said.
— By Teresa Wippel