Marysville’s Parks, Culture and Recreation Director Tara Mizell at Jennings Memorial Park on Wednesday. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Marysville’s Parks, Culture and Recreation Director Tara Mizell at Jennings Memorial Park on Wednesday. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

After years of work, Tara Mizell is Marysville parks leader

She has taken over following long-time director Jim Ballew’s retirement.

MARYSVILLE — In the more than two decades she’s worked here, Tara Mizell has helped the city through both hard and happy times.

Mizell has worked in the Marysville Parks, Culture and Recreation Department for 25 years. She’s been there for project and park openings, but also during times of grief.

Earlier this month, Mizell was named director of the department. She’s taken over following the retirement of long-time director Jim Ballew.

Mizell grew up in Everett, and after high school attended Central Washington University. She began to study education, but later changed her major to parks and recreation administration.

After college she began to work at Camp Killoqua near Lake Goodwin, where she met her future husband, Jim Mizell. The couple were married and started a family soon after.

“We actually lived on-site at Camp Killoqua when our kids were little,” Tara Mizell said.

After some time, Jim Mizell was hired as a full-time firefighter.

The family moved to Marysville, and Tara Mizell hoped to find a job in the city’s parks department. She applied for a couple of positions, with no luck.

At one point, she went to a conference in Wenatchee where she gave a presentation on after-school programs.

“Who happened to be sitting there in the front row, was Jim Ballew,” she said.

The two started talking, and he told her about an open position as a program coordinator at Marysville Middle School.

Mizell applied, and was hired in 1994.

Through the years, Mizell has enjoyed building connections with people and bringing programs to Marysville families. Children she once worked with have grown up and have their own kids.

“We’ve had people who work here who have started in high school and college, and now their kids are part of our programs,” she said.

Some of the memories that stand out most come from hard times.

The same day as the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Marysville firefighter Lt. Jeff Thornton died of cancer. He was a friend of the Mizells.

“It was a double tragedy for us,” she said.

The city’s annual Touch a Truck event was scheduled a few days later. Some questioned whether it should be cancelled.

Mizell didn’t think so.

“I was a big proponent of people need to be together, we need to be together as a community,” she said.

They filled Comeford Park with red, white and blue flags, and on them wrote the names of people who had died in the attacks.

After the shootings at Marysville Pilchuck High School in October 2014, Mizell was involved with recovery, and helped plan a walk around the high school campus one year later.

She wasn’t sure if anyone would show up.

“People just kept coming and coming,” she said. “Looking up at those stands that day, that was a really a pivotal moment. It wasn’t planned, they just started to sing all together. It was so moving.”

Mizell paired up with Rochelle Lubbers of the Tulalip Tribes to form a recovery committee. The women received an American Red Cross Humanitarian Spirit Award for their work.

In the years Mizell has worked for the parks department, Marysville’s population has grown by about 50,000 people.

When she started, there were two parks — Jennings Memorial Park and Comeford Park. Now, there are more than 30.

She plans to add more to the list.

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192;; Twitter: @stephrdavey.

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