Goodbye: After 30 years, Ballew goes out with a bang

MARYSVILLE – Jim Ballew is going out with a bang.

The city parks director for 30 years, who was a driving force behind Marysville’s impressive Fourth of July celebration, is retiring at the end of September.

The city’s chief administrative officer, Gloria Hirashima, made the announcement at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Hirashima said the Fourth was an “amazing event” and joked that Ballew’s retiring “leaves us with the problems of his success.”

Ballew said about 5,000 people attended the event at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. “Everybody behaved,” he said. “Hats off to the entire community.”

He said he does have some concern about next year. “I expect it will be a little bit bigger and a little bit better,” he said.

Council president Kamille Norton teased Ballew. “I hope it wasn’t this event that drove you away,” she said, adding she liked how the fireworks exploded so close to the ground.

Councilman Mark James said he liked the “small-town feel” while Stephen Muller said it was nice to see so many “kids running around.”

Mayor Jon Nehring called it a “big success” with someone telling him it was the best she’d ever seen among 40 shows.

Police Chief Rick Smith said it reminded him of growing up in Southern California. “It was a phenomenal night,” he said.

Councilman Michael Stevens said he was gone, but based on social media videos he’s seen he “can’t wait until next year.”

Regarding Ballew’s retirement, Councilman Tom King reminisced that they first worked together 30 years ago on a project in the Sunnyside area.

The Fourth event is only one of many successes Ballew has had as parks director.

Mayor Jon Nehring called him the “Father of Merrysville” when naming him grand marshal in 2017 of “Merrysville for the Holidays.” Ballew has shepherded the festival since its start 30 years ago.

“Establishing a tradition that’s really important to this community – I’m proud of that,” Ballew said at the time.

He also played a role in the Holiday Tour of Lights at Cedarcrest Golf Course.

In fact, Ballew played a role in basically everything that has to do with Maryville’s outstanding parks system.

Recent successes include obtaining the Marysville Opera House and turning it into a popular attraction, along with the Spray Park at Comeford Park downtown.

Another recent popular addition is the Ebey Waterfront Park Trail.

The city park offerings of classes and events have grown over the years. Under his direction the city has obtained outdoor movie systems that not only provide for the local Popcorn in the Park series, but are rented out to other communities.

Earlier successes include Healthy Communities Day and the Skate Park.

Ballew graduated from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Prior to coming to Marysville he spent two years in the same position in Hoquiam and before that spent nine years at the Teamster Rec Center.

Muller gave Ballew’s wife, Mary Ann, who works for the Marysville School District, a bad time Monday night. He asked her just a few nights ago if they were retiring, and she had said no.

“I hadn’t told my boss yet,” she said.

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