Terrace Park 2016-08-29 at 8.15.46 AM

The Tulsa Park and Recreation Board oversees the operation of more than 100 parks. Pictured above is one of them, Terrace Park, 2877 S. 77th East Ave.

Dale McNamara has had a rough couple of weeks. Now, all of a sudden, things are looking up.

Last Thursday she learned she will likely be staying on as a member of the Tulsa Park and Recreation Board, a position she has held for 16 years.

She thought she was done. That’s what Mayor Dewey Bartlett had told her about two weeks ago. But it turned out the mayor hadn’t made his decision in a timely fashion, so McNamara’s fate fell into the hands of the City Council. And now Councilor Blake Ewing has sent a letter to his colleagues saying he intends to seek McNamara’s reappointment. Council action is not expected for a couple of weeks.

“Dale’s been an excellent member of the board for several years, and with the transition in leadership on the Park Board, it makes sense to me that the previous chair be around to help that transition go smoothly,” Ewing said.

McNamara stepped down as chairwoman of the board in the spring after promising her successor, Teresa Burkett, that she would help her transition into her new role. McNamara had served as chairwoman since 2009.

“I am very thankful to Blake Ewing for writing a letter on my behalf,” McNamara said. “I think our City Council is very strong and has handled everything very dignified.”

She can’t bring herself to say the same about the mayor’s handling of her reappointment. McNamara, 80, said she was crushed when she received the news that she would not be reappointed, not simply because she was being replaced but because of the manner in which she was notified  — a letter.

“I would like to express my gratitude for your time, interest and effort in serving the community,” Bartlett’s form letter to her states. “As your term on the Park and Recreation Board ends, I want to inform you that you will not be reappointed.”

The mayor did add a personal touch to the letter, writing this note at the bottom:

“Dale, I know that this is not great news but I believe that this is a time for someone else to serve their city in the same terrific way that you have served. Thank you so much for your friendship and commitment to our parks, city and community.”

McNamara said her first reaction was shock.

“I was totally disappointed, disgusted with the whole method,” she said. “Just to receive a letter after 16 years of being on this board and doing lots of work and accomplishing a lot of things. It was pretty shabby.”

Bartlett said Thursday that he appreciates McNamara’s work on behalf of the city and understands that she is a beloved member of the Park Board. His decision to replace her, he said, was not a reflection on her performance on the board.

“I know Dale has done a great job. Everybody is really happy with that, but these positions … you are not there for life,” the mayor said. “I think turnover, there is nothing wrong with that.

“It’s not meant to be trying to say bad things about them (appointees) or insinuate that they are no longer relevant or no longer necessary because that’s not true.”

In fact, Bartlett said, he had hoped to consider her for another board.

“Sometimes it doesn’t work out,” the mayor said.

McNamara’s term expired May 31. The mayor had 60 days — or about two months — to either reappoint McNamara or appoint a replacement. He decided to replace her with Michael Oonk, but he did not notify City Council of his appointment until Aug. 12 — which was beyond the 60 days he had to make the decision.

Bartlett said his re-election campaign took a lot of his time and energy and kept him from making some of his appointments in a timely manner. His plan was to call McNamara after sending his letter but he never got around to it, he said.

“It just takes so much time. It was easier for me to write her a note and get it to her timely,” he said.

Bartlett said his philosophy in filling appointments has been to try, when possible and appropriate, to get Tulsans who have not served before so as to benefit from their expertise and perspectives.

“I think it’s nice to spread it around a little bit,” he said. “I have tried over the years to replace people with some up-and-comers — with some people that have a strong interest in public service, and sometimes that means replacing someone who has been there a long time.”

Tulsa’s mayor wields great influence over the city’s nearly 50 boards, commissions and authority by virtue of his appointing power. Pam Rosser, who oversees appointments for Bartlett, said the mayor is responsible for filling approximately 300 appointed positions.

Since losing his re-election bid June 28, Bartlett has made dozens of appointments and reappointments and plans to continue doing so until Mayor-Elect G.T. Bybum is sworn into office Dec. 5. City records show Bartlett has at least 14 more appointments or reappointments to make before leaving office.

“I have had a few people say, ‘Well, why do you still make appointments? And let G.T.’” Bartlett said. “No, my job is to be mayor until Dec. 5, and that includes the appointments.”

Bartlett said his intent in doing so is not to stack the deck against Bynum.

“I am not going to put people in there just to have them in opposition to G.T.,” Bartlett said. “I put people in, like I always have, because they are good representatives of the community (and) they provide good leadership.”

McNamara was the long-time women’s golf coach at the University of Tulsa before retiring in 1999. A few days after leaving TU, she received a phone call from former Park Board Chairman Walt Helmerich asking her to serve on the board.

“I just love Tulsa and I just realized the importance of having parks that complement the city and its growth,” McNamara said.

She was put right to work on the board, tasked with revitalizing the city’s two 36-hole golf courses, Page Belcher and Mohawk.

With her Instamatic camera in hand, McNamara drove a golf cart around each course, beginning with Mohawk. She had fond memories of the course from playing it earlier in her life but hadn’t been there for years. What she found broke her heart.

“I was in tears by the time I came off that golf course,” McNamara said. “It was in such horrible shape. It was nothing but weeds.”

McNamara soon figured out that the best way for the city to improve the courses was to put them under private management. Within a few years, the Park Board had an agreement in place to have Billy Casper Golf operate the courses.

“It has been a delightful success,” she said.

McNamara is also proud of the Park Board’s work to repurpose nearly a dozen parks by replacing recreation centers and pools with self-directed activities such as trails and water playgrounds.

As a Park Board member, she was also involved in efforts to create a partnership between Gilcrease Museum and the University of Tulsa as well as the private/public partnership created to operate the Tulsa Zoo.

“That museum is just going to be unbelievable,” McNamara said, referring to its planned renovation. “That just thrilled me to death because I was in the first docent class at Gilcrease, and it has been a love for a long time.”

McNamara said she is most proud of the park master plan approved by the city in 2010.

“At the time we did that there was not any money, it was worse than it is now as far as finances,” she said. “And we got proactive and found private money to fund that study and make that master plan, and we have stuck to it.”

The Parks Department has spent the last several years working to get its national accreditation and is expected to receive it by the end of the year. That is one of the unfinished projects McNamara had hoped to see through in her last term on the Park and Recreation Board.

Now it looks like she will — as soon as she recovers from two recent knee-replacement surgeries.

“I’m raring to go,” she said.