Superintendent Bob Keefer, longtime leader of Willamalane Park and Recreation District, has announced his retirement, effective Oct. 21. Keefer said the decision was made with mixed emotions, but that a desire to spend more time with his wife, Christi, and family finally won out.
Keefer, 60, said he is proud of the accomplishments of the district while he has been superintendent and feels that the organization is well positioned to accommodate a transition in leadership.
“I have sincerely enjoyed my time as superintendent and my involvement in the growth and transformation of the district over the last 16 years,” said Keefer. “I believe we are moving in the right direction, and the best is yet to come for Willamalane.”
Recruitment of a new superintendent will begin next week, with the goal of hiring Keefer’s replacement by September and a starting date set for early October.
The process, which will be driven by the Willamalane Board, will be opened up to both external and internal candidates.
Board President Lee Beyer said their goal will be to find a leader who will continue on the same path of excellence set by Keefer. However, he admitted that Keefer’s will be a tough act to follow.
“Bob is probably one of the best public administrators I’ve worked with, and I’ve worked with quite a few,” said Beyer. “Through his leadership, passion and integrity, he has overseen tremendous growth of the district’s resources and amenities. He is also the type of guy that when the community gives him a dollar, he turns it into four.”
Beyer said Keefer’s ability to leverage taxpayer dollars and listen to and respond to the public’s needs have built trust within the community, as evidenced by the passage of the $20 million bond measure in 2012.
Many of those bond projects, including the expansion of parks and trails and the preservation of natural areas, have already been completed. The recent acquisition of 665 acres along the Thurston Hills ridgeline showcased Keefer’s patient and sometimes dogged negotiations with a number of private and public stakeholders.
While at Willamalane, Keefer has secured more than $8 million in grant funds for parks, including $5 million in federal funding for construction of the 4-mile Middle Fork Path.
Through his 38-year career as a park and recreation professional, including 10 years as the Lane County Parks Division Manager, Keefer’s accomplishments are plentiful.
He said that one of his greatest accomplishments was to ensure Willamalane be more than just a good parks and recreation agency, but rather one that provides leadership at all levels of the community.
Keefer has been actively involved with the Springfield Renaissance Development Corporation, Springfield Downtown Advisory Committee, Twin Rivers Rotary Club of Springfield, Springfield Chamber of Commerce, and is a founding member and director of the Springfield City Club. He is also the current board chairman of the Wildish Community Theater in downtown Springfield.
In recognition of his efforts, he received the Springfield Chamber of Commerce First Citizen award in 2012, and the city’s Spirit of Springfield award in 2016.
Other honors include the Oregon Recreation and Park Association’s Professional Honor Award in 1996 and Lane Council of Government’s 2010 Outstanding Public Employee Award. Last year, he was honored by the Special Districts Association of Oregon with the Howard Terpenning Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Junction City native thanked Willamalane staff in his announcement.
“It has been my pleasure to serve and lead Willamalane,” Keefer wrote.
“Willamalane is special — you know it, I know it, the board knows it, and, most importantly, the community knows it. And you make it so. Keep up the good work.”
The Keefers plan to reside in Sisters, where they have built a new home. Although he is considering consulting work, Keefer said he does not have any specific plans — other than to enjoy Oregon’s many recreational opportunities.