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Washington State Parks director resigns 7 months into the job

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Washington State Parks
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Peter Mayer, the director of Washington State Parks, resigned Wednesday after almost seven months heading up the agency.

Washington State Parks will need to search for a new permanent director, after Peter Mayer resigned Wednesday.

The director of Washington State Parks resigned Wednesday after almost seven months heading up the agency.

In a letter, director Peter Mayer said he resigned to pursue opportunities closer to his new home in Issaquah, with the best interest of his family in mind.

His resignation came the same day as the State Parks and Recreation Commission scheduled a special meeting to “to receive and evaluate complaints brought against a public officer or employee,” according to the Oct. 6 agenda.

Mayer was in charge of 124 parks and more than 1,000 staff.

Earlier in his career, Mayer oversaw governance, strategic direction, and business operations at Metro Parks Tacoma. He also worked for Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation and Mercer Island Parks and Recreation.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission appointed Mayer as the agency’s director this past March.

At the time of his appointment, Mike Latimer, commission chairman, said, “Peter is a proven leader with a wide range of experience in parks and recreation. His background and expertise will help lead State Parks toward a bright future.”

That future abruptly was cut short on Wednesday.

According to his resignation letter, Mayer said the travel demands of the job and the significant challenges facing Washington State Parks also led to his decision to resign.

“Since March, I’ve traveled to over 90 parks in our incredible system, and I’ve met and interacted with truly dedicated parks professionals who are eager to see the agency evolve,” Mayer wrote.

In addition, he wrote, “In that vein, important organizational development and assessment work was initiated to help facilitate the agency’s transition and effectiveness in charting a more inclusive path forward.”

Mayer’s resignation is effective Jan. 3, 2022.

For now, the commission temporarily appointed assistant director Peter Herzog to head the agency. Commissioners said they plan to ask former director Don Hock to fill-in until they can appoint a permanent director.

Latimer announced Mayer’s resignation at a special meeting Wednesday.

“I think I speak on behalf of the commission that I’d like to thank Pete for his service and wish him well,” Latimer said.

In a closed-door meeting on Monday and another Sept. 22, the commission discussed unspecified complaints made against an unnamed employee. The commissioners sought an independent review of the complaints. Neither details about the review nor a finalized report were immediately available Thursday, said Amanda McCarthy, State Parks spokesperson.

In a separate closed-door session on Wednesday, the commission discussed potential litigation risks against Washington State Parks.