Occupation: Director of recreation, Warner Robins Recreation Department
Q: You’ve been named the new director, but how long have you been with the Warner Robins Recreation Department?
A: That’s tricky. I guess you can say 20 years: 18 full-time and two part-time when I was younger. Plus, I’ve been involved with the department since I was a kid. Add to that the fact it was 18 years at the golf course, but until this past July 1 the International City Golf Course was technically under the city’s building authority. So, 20 years with the city doing recreation.
Q: So you’re a Warner Robins native? And a longtime rec department user?
A: Born and raised here and a 1996 graduate of Warner Robins High School. As a kid I always played basketball, baseball, football and all that through the rec department, then in middle school I cut back and stuck with basketball and baseball. Basketball was my passion and I still love it. I won numerous Elks Club and Knights of Columbus hoop-shoot contests there. Even though I went to Georgia Southwestern to play baseball, basketball was my love.
Q: What was your degree?
Q: Why did you cut back on sports in middle school?
A: I was an all A student and wanted to stick with two sports to handle everything else. My parents were educators at WRHS and my dad coached football 25 years.
Q: Did you enjoy golf?
A: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. It was great to pick up once baseball was done.
Q: What was your role at the course?
A: Overseeing the total operation—financial, personnel and the golf programs.
Q: Has the course has been successful?
A: It has and it’s gotten better. We made improvements like redoing greens, putting in new irrigation and getting new equipment installed.
Q: With a lifelong history at the department, what did it feel like being named director?
A: Surreal. I remembered sitting in Martha Ann Lumpkin’s office, the former director, all those years ago about coming to work part time, then all those years playing in the gym. I never imagined I’d run it.
Q: What do you see as the department’s value to individuals and to the community?
A: The fact it’s a huge fitness program for everyone — all ages — and the fact you can pour your life into teaching not just sports skills but life skills to young people. We touch kids and people on into their 80s and 90s with fitness, life skills and new skills. There are a lot of hard to define intangibles that are priceless, but they’re quality of life issues that affect all sorts of areas including economic development. People and businesses consider these things when coming to Warner Robins or not and the military is aware of them in relation to Robins Air Force Base.
Q: What have your first days been like?
A: Wow — long. But I’ve loved it. I guess I’ve worked 31 days without a day off until this past weekend. But I hate to procrastinate so it’s been good getting things done.
Q: It’s a huge topic, but what can you briefly say about the city’s goals — and your own goals — for the department?
A: The big goals, and my goals and the city’s goals are pretty much one and the same, are first to get in and renovate all of what we call the pocket parks — the smaller neighborhood parks — with new equipment and site upgrades. That’s already going on at Ada Lee. Then we want to get in our bigger sports complex parks — the ones with lights — and redo those. We want to look at things like combining all football at one complex to help alleviate problems parents have with juggling having more than one kid at different parks. Spectators, too. Of course another is building the big, new sports complex for the city with fields, swimming, a gym and other facilities, like maybe the administration facilities, all at one large location. I think it’s safe to say we’ll start moving dirt in the next six months on North Houston Road. But we want to add pocket gyms in neighborhoods around the city, too.
Q: Those are large, specific projects.
A: The overall goal is to make the city’s youth, adult and senior programs bigger and better quality to serve the whole community; improve what we have and expand into things we don’t. But we have great programs people don’t know about, like fencing, and we have a lot of senior programs from social events to watercolor to quilting classes and woodworking classes. We don’t want to bog down just in athletics and we’ll expand parks and trails for walking and other enjoyment. We’ll be opening Walker Pond Nov. 1. It’s becoming beautiful with walking trail, shade trees, benches and restrooms. We want to connect walking trails through the whole city by 2040. We have all walks of life and we want to enrich people’s lives.
Q: What’s the department’s biggest current asset?
A: What comes to mind is that our mayor and council and employees are ready to make the recreation department the best it can be.
Q: What’s the most rewarding thing for you in all this?
A: Well, at the golf course one of the biggest things was seeing the 44 kids that worked there one way or another go on to college or the Air Force and do well. I guess I’m looking forward to seeing that with a lot more kids who work with us and take part in programs. I want to see them do well in whatever they do. That’s a big reward.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.