PERRY -- The city of Perry recently hired a new leader to help expand its parks and offer more inclusive recreational and cultural opportunities.
Kevin Dye, 41, of Bristol, Virginia, is the city’s first director of leisure services.
“We are what people do when they’re not working,” said Dye, who recently moved to Perry with his wife and 11-year-old daughter.
Perry has been without a parks and recreation director about two years, and during that time the city renamed the department and expanded the director’s responsibilities to include oversight of cultural events and festivals, Mayor Jimmy Faircloth said.
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“We felt like it was past time that we recognize several things: No. 1, there’s more to recreation than just bats and balls,” Faircloth said. “We had a number of different entities around town that were performing those functions very well. We just didn’t have any one person coordinating all of those activities. We thought it was important for that to happen.”
Faircloth said he and council members chose Dye from about 120 candidates and that his personality, experience and education made him stand out.
“He appears to be genuine. He’s a people person and takes an interest in what you’re saying,” Faircloth said of Dye. “We (wanted) someone who has the ability to relate to both young and old. He exudes confidence and gives you the feeling that he cares.”
Dye earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Radford University in 1997 and became a personal fitness trainer before beginning a four-year career in federal law enforcement. He worked as assistant director of parks and recreation in Kingsport, Virginia, before becoming parks and recreation director in Bristol for six years.
“I’ve never considered parks and recreation in this black and white area. It’s always been shades of gray,” said Dye, a die-hard college football fan who also enjoys reading and painting wildlife scenes. “It’s whatever will get people out of the house and out into their community into their facilities.”
Dye said he withdrew applications for several similar positions in the Southeast because he was impressed by Perry when he visited for an interview in June.
“Just the professionalism of their attitudes and the questions they asked made a very strong impression on me with where they wanted to go,” Dye said. “We came and stayed for a few days and visited the area and just went out in T-shirts and shorts and met people (to) just kind of feel the whole place out. ... The community, as a whole, is just extremely friendly, genteel, polite, you know, that whole Georgia thing.”
Dye said he’s still in the process of evaluating the department’s strengths, challenges and the community’s needs.
“I think we have a lot of infrastructure in place, (but) it’s just a matter now of growing them and expanding them,” Dye said. “I think there will be new facilities in the near future to add to our inventory. ... I like a challenge like anybody else, and Perry is eager to grow and step into the next 10 years and the 10 years after that.”
Dye said one of the first things he plans to do is connect neighborhoods, parks and schools with a trail-like system that would enable residents to navigate the city on bicycle or by foot. Dye said he also would like to revamp old parks and add more amenities such as green ways and dog parks.
Another priority for Dye is getting a splash pad at Creekwood Park.
“Splash pads are way cool,” Dye said. “From a maintenance standpoint, they’re awesome because they’re more economical, and you get to use them longer because you don’t have to hire lifeguards. ... The other cool part is they’re (handicap accessible). Any kid can play, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve got one leg or you’re in a wheelchair, you can just watch other kids have a ball.”
The leisure services department is made up of about five people who are responsible for the city’s 15 parks as well as cultural events and city recreational opportunities. Dye said his goal is for the parks to be clean, friendly, beautiful and memorable.
“I guarantee you, if that’s the case ... you probably plan on going back because you had one of those magical moments that, in life, are really cool when they happen randomly,” Dye said. “I want folks to be able to take their kids, take their families, take their parents, friends, whoever and come to any of our facilities and have a feeling of, ‘Man, this was a great day. This was a good idea.’”
To contact writer Laura Corley, call 744-4334 and follow her on Twitter @Lauraecor.