'How do you meet 21,000 people?'
New recreation director wants to get to know the community
Last updated 11/23/2022 at 3:51pm
Yuri "Tony" Trofimczuk wants to hear from you.
The City's new recreation and cultural services director isn't quite sure how to meet all 21,000 residents of Mukilteo, but he's working on it.
"I am genuinely interested to learn what residents in Mukilteo, individual residents in Mukilteo, value as a recreational opportunity or experience," Trofimczuk said. "I don't know how to do it. How do you meet 21,000 people? But if someone were to call me, I would have a conversation with them."
Want to take a walk or share a cup of coffee with Trofimczuk? He's up for it.
"I just like to find out what people are looking to experience in life," he said.
Trofimczuk comes to Mukilteo from Snohomish County Parks and Recreation,
where he was a recreation supervisor for almost 15 years. In many ways, Mukilteo is a homecoming for Trofimczuk, who lives with his wife in the Picnic Point area. The two have one son who graduated from Kamiak and another who is a sophomore.
"This is where I live. My kids go to school here," he said. "This is kind of my community."
Trofimczuk also was looking for professional growth when he applied for the Mukilteo position. "It's easy to get complacent and get comfortable," he said. "That's not who I am. That's not my personality."
During his time with Snohomish County, Trofimczuk said his goal was to improve the public's experiences in the parks.
It comes as no surprise that lean budgets often impact parks and recreation. Trofimczuk noted parks are typically the first area cut from the budget. "So, our resources become more and more limited each year. You have to really get more and more creative utilizing volunteers," he said.
Trofimczuk already reached out to a community group involved with the dirt jump bicycle course that is a part of the City's 2022-2027 Capital Improvement Program. He said when it comes to volunteer groups, it's important to involve younger residents, as initial enthusiasm with a project can wane over time.
"It's going to be really important to involve the youth, not only to maintain the dirt jump park, but also to provide them leadership opportunities and civic opportunities to become engaged as future leaders in the community," Trofimczuk said. "I'm trying to anticipate how to create sustainable support for this specific example."
He added that private partnerships are becoming increasingly important. "We can't do it all. We don't have enough staff. How can we work with the existing groups in the community?"
The City's Recreation Department shares the same vision and values as the Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, Mukilteo Little League, and Mukilteo Youth Soccer. "It's to provide a safe experience for our families and for our youth to live happy, healthy lives."
Last summer, the City sponsored one movie night for the community. Trofimczuk floated the idea of having a local business sponsor a series of movie nights during the summer. He's also thinking about what else the City can do for its residents.
Trofimczuk said the City currently hosts three special events – Spooktacular, Touch-A-Truck, and Merry Mukilteo/tree lighting.
"That's three events," Trofimczuk said. "We've got nine more months." Then there's the Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival in September. "Could there be another one?" he asked. "Could there be a second festival, perhaps on the opposite side of the calendar?"
This year's Merry Mukilteo on Dec. 3 will include the lighting of the tree at Totem Park, a visit from Santa Claus, caroling, food and drinks, and goodies from local businesses.
"Could the tree lighting activity become, instead of a one-day event, could it be a week-long celebration?" Trofimczuk said.
The shape of the city also presents challenges and opportunities. "It's very narrow, very long," he said. Old Town is at one end of the city and Harbour Pointe at the other.
"How do we connect those communities with some synergy?" Trofimczuk said.
Trofimczuk was proud of his efforts to embrace the concept of diversity in sports and activities during his time at Snohomish County. He led the effort to build the first two cricket grounds in the county. Trofimczuk said technology professionals at Microsoft, Google, and Amazon often came from other countries, such as India and Pakistan.
"We always put these blinders on. We think soccer, soccer, soccer, football, football," he said. "But globally, there are other sports – rugby and cricket – that are just as popular as the NFL, if not more popular. Continuous improvement is vital for our survival in the public sector.
"There's a lot of opportunity right here in this community."
Trofimczuk's parents immigrated to the United States. His mother was from Brazil, while his father came from Poland. Trofimczuk, 57, was born in the United States and attended Edmonds High School.
Trofimczuk is aware that oftentimes the government can present challenges to residents with its rules and regulations. He views himself as an advocate and problem solver for the public.
"I'm a public servant and I want to serve the community," Trofimczuk said. "If I can help them navigate the process to achieve their goal, that's definitely what I want. That's my job. I don't like to pass the buck – 'Oh well, sorry. I can't help you. You need to talk to someone else.' I will roll up my sleeves and march alongside them and help them get to their goal, if possible."
Trofimczuk said the mission of the Recreation and Cultural Services Department is clear to him.
"We are in the business of creating memories," he said.
One idea he has to bring the city together is an international community potluck. Food is an ideal way to break the ice between people and to start a conversation.
"When you look at cultures, it's universal – that sitting at the table together unites people," he said.
Trofimczuk expects a wide range of ages – families with young children and older residents – at Merry Mukilteo.
"They can come down, meet a neighbor, and have a memory with their loved ones," Trofimczuk said. "To have an emotional connection, a memory, that's what we make. That's what we go home with. You remember that meal that you had at the restaurant or that movie you saw in the theater. It evoked an emotion. So you think of mind, body, and spirit. That's what we do in recreation."
The issue of how much the City contributes to or subsidizes the Recreation and Cultural Services Department and the Rosehill Community Center is an issue the City Council has debated in the past and will be discussed again in 2023.
Trofimczuk has a clear viewpoint on the role of recreation and cultural services.
"Recreation is just as important as fire, police, public works, clean water running to your kitchen, and a sewer system that keeps everything sanitary. Imagine if the Rosehill Community Center was a private home. Only those private owners would have this view.
"These public spaces are what helps build community. That's why people move here."
Trofimczuk sees a clear return on the investment in recreation and cultural services for everyone in the community.
"If Japanese Gulch was another warehouse, another runway, another widget-making company, we would not have that place to walk in, to recreate, to recharge our mind, body, and spirit. Why are people drawn to the Pacific Northwest? To Mukilteo? To Snohomish County? It's because of the beauty and because it's safe and because we have the infrastructure in place to deal with our issues."