After 22 years of service to the Turlock Parks, Recreation and Community Commission, Brent Bohlender is finally faced with the end of his term limit. Bohlender has been on the commission since 1988, through five different recreation directors and three mayors of Turlock.
The current term limit for appointed members of the Turlock Parks, Recreation and Community Commission is three years. Commissioners can be appointed for three consecutive terms, making a possible nine consecutive years of service. Bohlender said that the commission has changed names, bi-laws and missions several times over the last 20 years. Each time they made such changes all term limits were reset, so Bohlender has never actually reached the end of a nine year term.
“In all the years I’ve been on this commission, I am the first person to ever hit term limit,” Bohlender said.
Bohlender first served on the Parks and Recreation Commission in 1970, when he was a student at California State University, Stanislaus. At the time there was an ex officio position on the commission for a student athlete at CSU Stanislaus. Bohlender left the position in 1972, but returned in 1988 as an appointed member of the commission. He taught at Modesto City Schools until his recent retirement, and he has coached water polo and swim for over 40 years. He said that his main interest on the commission was aquatic programs, swimming pools and similar issues.
“But public service has always been somewhat important to me. There are a lot of other things that come with being on the commission, not just aquatics,” Bohlender said.
A lot of the development of Turlock’s park system has taken place during Bohlender’s 22 years on the commission.
Many of the parks did not exist when he was appointed, and some were just empty spaces.
“We met on these blank fields with nothing on them and the community told us what they would like to see,” Bohlender said.
Recently a similar process took place at Columbia Park, where residents spoke for and against a water structure in the park. Bohlender said that the role of the Parks and Recreation commission has always been advisory, but they rely on community input to make decisions and direct Parks and Recreation staff. They also act as arbitrators on issues that are not clearly defined by the Parks and Recreation department or City Council.
The first big issue he faced as a commissioner was public consumption of alcohol in the parks. At the time there was contention over whether alcohol should be allowed.
“Some people wanted to have a drink when they were at the park with their family eating lunch. Some of the neighbors did not want alcohol in the parks at all. It was a real big issue,” Bohlender said.
Ultimately, the commission at the time decided that it was in the public’s interest to ban alcohol in parks. That ruling still stands.
“We sometimes act as arbitrators for issues that are unclear but we rarely get specific issues like that in front of us,” Bohlender said.
Public attendance at Parks, Recreation, and Community Commission meetings ebbs and flows along with these specific issues. Last summer when the commission made a decision on youth football affiliation, the meeting was standing room only.
“When we have these hot button issues we have a lot of people there and then the very next meeting nobody is there,” Bohlender said.
Specific issues that could be addressed by the Parks and Recreation Commission are sometimes deferred to the City Council or Planning Commission instead. Bohlender said that the Parks and Recreation Commission is the second oldest commission in Turlock, after the Turlock City Council. However, it has always been closely tied to the Parks and Recreation department.
The Turlock Parks and Recreation department has been shuffled around in recent years, taking the commission right along with it. The department was independent first, then incorporated into Police Services, then moved to Municipal Services. Some of the budget and responsibilities of the department have stayed behind each time Parks and Recreation is re-categorized.
“People tend to forget over the years that some things are the responsibility of the Parks and Recreation Commission,” Bohlender said.
Bohlender said that the Parks, Recreation and Community Commission has seen a diminished role over the years. He said that if they were given more specific issues and had more community participation they could better serve Turlock.
As far as the future of the commission is concerned, Bohlender hopes to participate as a member of the public audience. He would like to give his opinion on aquatic or other issues that he has knowledge of. His term will expire after the December meeting, and he will have to take a year off before he can re-apply for the commission.
“Sure I’d love to reapply in a year, but who knows if there will be a vacant position then? What will I do in a year? I don’t know,” Bohlender said.
To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.