The Livermore Area Recreation and Park District (LARPD) Board of Directors has two seats up for grabs come Nov. 3 for the five-member elected board that serves as the legislative body that governs the parks district, instituting policy and providing overall guidance to the district staff.
Both seats are at-large and at least one is guaranteed to change hands in the general election as current Director Beth Wilson opted not to seek re-election.
Five Livermore residents are running on the LARPD ballot -- incumbent Jan Palajac and challengers James E. Boswell, Mike Ralph, Stacey A. Swanson and Richard Tarbell.
Each candidate has their own set of skills that they are hoping to bring to the board, along with goals they'd like to accomplish if elected.
The Weekly spoke with four of the five contenders about their backgrounds, experience and priorities for the district should they win one of the available seats.
James E. Boswell
A military veteran who works as a deputy-sheriff in Contra Costa County, Boswell is a longtime Livermore resident who attended Livermore High School and Las Positas College before graduating from the University of San Francisco.
He said he has an extensive athletic background as a cyclist, runner, softball, baseball and soccer player as well as a coach for men's softball, baseball and various children's sports, including his 11-year-old daughter's traveling softball team.
"I've been directly and indirectly involved with the parks and recreation district for a long time," Boswell explained. "I have experience managing the needs of younger kids, and I've worked with seniors as well."
As a coach, he said he is very familiar with the process for renting LARPD fields, which sparked one of the driving forces behind his decision to run for the LARPD Board of Directors.
He said he's noticed a number of fields and other resources that appear to be underutilized, which could potentially be used to bring more outdoor programs and services to the community.
Additionally, he hopes to lend his financial expertise to the board. "I know what it takes to go through and balance a budget," he said, adding that he would like to help establish "new and creative ways for handling (the district's) assets."
Boswell's wife is a second-grade teacher, and with schools transitioning to distance learning this year, he said one of his priorities if elected to the board would be to expand fitness opportunities for students to encourage them to step away from technology.
Boswell has worked in law enforcement for the past 17 years. most recently with the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office. Prior to that, his professional background was in the tech industry and in finance, having served in senior management roles for Bank of America, Apple, Connect Inc. and ADP, respectively. He also served in the U.S. Navy and the Army Reserve.
Learn more about Boswell at boswellforoffice.com.
Palajac was first elected to the LARPD Board of Directors in 2016 after moving to Livermore from Fremont, where she and her family had spent more than three decades. She previously worked for the city of San Jose as a landscape architect in charge of the design and construction of trails and parks throughout the city.
"I knew that when we moved (to Livermore) that within about a year or so, I would be retiring. And I wanted to do something to continue with what I knew how to do and what I was educated to do in my new community," she said of her initial interest in running for the board four years ago.
Since then, Palajac said she has helped the board review and revise its capital improvement projects program for better efficiency and accuracy. In January, she began serving as chair of the board, facing the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic shortly after.
"Two months after I started, everything shut down and a lot of the other park districts in the area shut their parks down too. But we made it a priority to keep our parks open and keep the trails open and all the open spaces," she said, adding that the experience has shed light on "how essential it is to get out and exercise in the outdoors."
If re-elected, Palajac wants to establish new programs and classes to offer the community that are in line with new health and safety guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic. "I think, especially now with kids doing distance learning, it's really important to try to get them outside, get them doing some other types of activities and the same for seniors," she said.
She added that she hopes to continue her work on trail connectivity to close some of the gaps throughout the Livermore trail system, improving their accessibility for the community.
Learn more about Palajac at janpalajac4larpd.com.
Ralph is a 16-year Livermore resident, according to his candidate statement provided to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters' Office. He has a bachelor's degree in recreation administration from CSU Chico and a career spanning 30 years in the bicycle industry. He is currently the general manager at Superfly Wheels bicycle shop in Pleasanton.
"Our world is in a unique position with many activities on pause," he said in his candidate statement. "This presents our community with an opportunity to rethink how we can best fulfill the mission of creating outstanding recreation programs. I look forward to combining my experience, education and desire to help our city ride into a healthy, active and rewarding future."
Ralph did not respond to the Weekly's request for an interview. Learn more about Ralph at votemikeralph.com.
Stacey A. Swanson
A longtime Tri-Valley resident, Swanson grew up in Dublin and raised her family in San Ramon before arriving in Livermore in 2009. Before she retired, she ran her own business called SAS Marketing for about 15 years, selling advertising for motorcycle magazines in the United States and in Australia.
"One of the reasons I started getting involved in the outdoors is that working from home with this very small business, I found that often I would not even get out of my chair except to check the mail for weeks on end. So I started a hiking group," she said.
While this is her first time running for public office, Swanson played a public role in helping protect 85 acres of open space from development on the former Springtown Golf Course. She helped found the North Livermore Community Alliance, which worked with the Livermore City Council, LARPD and other community members to get Measure FF on the 2016 election ballot, which passed with 81% of the vote.
If elected, Swanson wants to help increase public knowledge of how LARPD operates, expand overall awareness about the district's financial decisions and become "a louder voice" for her Springtown neighborhood that she sees as underserved by the district in terms of community programs and facilities.
"There's a saying a lot of people use in sales along the lines of, 'You can sell ice to an Eskimo' and they think it's a compliment to a sales person, but it is not," Swanson said. "Sales is very much about making sure that you listen to what the needs are of the people you're serving and then help implement those needs."
She added, "My role as a board director, as I see it, is to be an enthusiastic community member who wants the best for my community."
Learn more about Swanson at stacey4larpd2020.com.
Originally from Sacramento, Tarbell lived and worked in Hayward for a number of years before settling in Livermore in 2004. He earned a degree in geography with a concentration in urban planning from CSU Sacramento, which led to a 27-year career in urban planning. His work consisted of processing land-use issues for parks and sports fields as well as other outdoor facilities, including skate parks and dog parks.
He's been retired for two years but he said he thinks his professional expertise would be valuable to LARPD. "I've gone before the LARPD board before, presenting projects to them, but in this case I would like to contribute what I can to the community and to the board with the planning experience that I've had," he said.
He is active throughout the Tri-Valley, serving as a volunteer at the Pleasanton Senior Center and a member of the Tri-Valley Fly Fishers club.
He said keeps himself active by using many of the LARPD facilities, including the Robert Livermore Aquatics Center where he said he frequently swims. He's also an avid golfer and scuba diver.
"One of the comments I've heard from people is that if the activity doesn't have a keyboard, people aren't necessarily interested," he said, adding that if elected to the board he wants to encourage more people, particularly seniors, to get outdoors.
Tarbell does not have a campaign website.