County hires interim Rec Dept. director
By Michael Prochaska
Following public comment demanding change in the leadership of Morgan County’s Parks and Recreation Department at a May 15 Board of Commissioners (BOC) work session, the board appointed an interim parks and recreation director during a closed session.
Recreation Facilities Director Lance Alexander will serve as interim parks and recreation director effective June 1 until May 31, 2013, at which point the county has the intention to hire Alexander as director, contingent upon job performance, according to a hiring contract.
Alexander will also host Town Hall meetings and go through several certification programs, according to the contract.
“I’m looking forward to there being a fresh wind blowing through our department,” he said in an interview with the Morgan County Citizen.
Members of the public reaffirmed that sentiment at the BOC meeting.
“I love Bill Wood; he coached me for four years,” said Emily Sherill, who played softball at Morgan County High School (MCHS) and now coaches as a volunteer. “But the coaches are not supported. In softball, I have a hard time doing what I’m supposed to be doing, because I feel like I’m doing it alone.”
Betsy Wagonhauser, president of the Madison Area Youth Soccer Association (MAYSA), said she e-mailed coaches and residents invested in the department asking for support of a more communicative and flexible department.
“We support a recreational agenda that strives to maintain a quality parks and recreation program benefiting the community and satisfying the needs of its participants, one that would be open to new trends and concepts that would enhance program effectiveness,” Wagonhauser read from her e-mail at the meeting.
Wagonhauser said she received support from Dave Neuhart, director of the tennis program at Reynolds Plantation and Hiram Johnston one of the founders of MAYSA.
Wagonhauser and others claimed that too many times Wood had rejected their requests and stifled public input.
“The system we have works for some but doesn’t work for all,” said Jeff South, who added that too many kids go outside the county for recreation.
Sherill said that although facilities are top-notch, athletic programs are unable to utilize the fields enough for practices.
Recreation Board member Bob Mason said the department has room for change but that it has always been in a state of improvement.
“It’s not like it’s been neglected. It’s come a long, long way,” he said. “Don’t be so anxious to throw out something that’s the best it is in the State of Georgia.”
Recreation Board member Alvin White defended Wood, saying that Wood led the department when it was supported primarily through its own fundraising and that it still brings in about 35 percent of its budget.
Wood, who will retire June 1, was not present at the meeting.
Newly appointed Interim Director Alexander also stressed that Wood has left a tremendous impact on the department.
“Bill Wood has poured his life into the program,” he said. “He deserves every accolade out there. He’s been a great teacher and mentor to me.”
As Facilities Director, Alexander oversaw the construction of the new aquatic center and other amenities but also took park in the hiring of coaches and other administrative duties.
Alexander said the biggest need for improvement is in public awareness and communication.
“It’s important that people get to speak and put their ideas out there,” he said.
“And I want to listen. I think a lot of these things are easily solved with communication on everybody’s part – their part and our part.”
Alexander also met with MCHS Head Football Coach Bill Malone this week to discuss future collaborations with the high school.
“I think the goal of our department is to provide the services that tends to all the people across the board,” Alexander said. “We’re here for the little kid who doesn’t have the greatest skills to the most elite kid. We’re here for everybody. “
Sherill said improving the program is essential because competitive sports had influenced other areas of her life.
“I have to hustle at what I do; I have to persevere and push,” she said. “That’s not something I’ve learned from video games and T.V….that’s stuff I learned on the fields.”
Printed in the May 24, 2012 edition