When Liam Hughes announced that he was departing the Sisters Park & Recreation District (SPRD) to take a position in Pendleton, the board of directors didn't have to look too far to find someone to fill his shoes.
Kris Harwell has been finance director at SPRD for the past four-and-a-half years.
"There were all these transitional items that I thought I should offer to help (with)," she told The Nugget. "I'd been here the longest, knew the operations of the district, the financial operations..."
SPRD has three full-time staff and 10 FTE overall. Harwell is keeping the ship on course while the district conducts a search for a permanent executive director. And Harwell has applied for that position.
"The interim piece has really opened my eyes to what I can do as a director," she said. "Especially being here for four-and-a-half years, I can see where the district needs to go."
Harwell believes strongly that SPRD needs to tailor its offerings to the wants and needs of the community - but it's hard for a small outfit to do the strategic work needed to accomplish that goal.
"We're just a small district, and we're under-funded," she told The Nugget. "It spreads us thin, and you're not always able to put your finger on the pulse of the community and what they want. You're caught up in the day-to-day."
SPRD is seeking to solidify its financial situation through a local option funding request that is headed to voters in May. Success in that would give SPRD some ability to plan.
Harwell notes that SPRD's programs "have to self-sustain themselves. And that's challenging when you're a small community and you're trying to keep your programs affordable."
Harwell has lived in Sisters for some time now. She's married and has two young children. Her family enjoys skiing and all the other outdoor activities that Central Oregon has to offer.
"My parents lived here and I moved here when I was 20," she recalled. "I was actually going to go to school in the east and I met my husband and the rest is history."
The application period for the executive director position closed on February 20, and Harwell expects a new executive director to be in place by May.
Whether she's ultimately selected or not, she values the experience she's having as interim director.
"I like growth and if anything this appointment has taught me tons and I'm grateful for it," she said. "It started a little flame in me."