We do not know the reason behind Clinton Recreation and Parks director Judi Nicholson’s sudden and very unexpected resignation from her post last week, but one thing is clear, when the dust settles, it will be the city and the hundreds of residents — young and old — who utilize the park services that will be the losers.
Nicholson, city officials said late last week, tendered her resignation, effective last Friday, just a few short days after the newspaper learned of her impending and, again, unexpected, departure.
All city management would say about the resignation was that it basically came down to what they called “philosophical differences,” a broad stroke that offers little explanation for how a nine-year city director with a great record would suddenly walk away from a job, by all accounts, she loved and dedicated herself to day in and day out.
Nicholson did not comment on her departure, and because it boils down to a personnel matter, no further explanation is likely to ever be given by city officials.
No matter the silence, it is unfortunate city management could not reconcile whatever “philosophical differences” they had with Nicholson, a woman who, we believe, made great strides for city recreation since taking its helm in 2003, and who had great plans for advancing its offerings even more in the coming years.
Given the budgetary constraints and the limited staff the department has always operated under, we have always believed Clinton’s recreation offerings have been second to none. What started under the late Walker Bellamy and continued through the tenure of former director Brenda Boone, Nicholson has expanded upon and enhanced, following their lead in making Clinton Recreation and Parks a top-notch department that opened its doors to all.
We have watched services to everyone from the youngest citizen to the oldest expand, along with grant funds to accommodate those services, complete with a complement of renovations, equipment and realigned ballfields, all at the behest of Nicholson. And, what’s more — and perhaps most importantly — we’ve watched the doors to the rec open wider and wider, ensuring that children who perhaps could not afford the recreation fees charged to participate in sports could actually play.
And Nicholson was lauded for those efforts. She was recognized by the North Carolina Recreation and Parks Association, of which she is a member, as the recipient of the prestigious Jack Swede Frauson Professional Award for outstanding work and accomplishments in parks and recreation in association with a parks and recreation board or commission.
What’s more she was lauded by city officials “for the dedication and integrity she demonstrates in her work for the city, the community and department staff.” She was credited with “working hard to create an environment where every individual has the opportunity to play and enjoy recreation in a safe, clean, happy environment.”
It makes one wonder what the philosophical differences could actually have been.
Coupled with all those efforts for which Nicholson was honored would the the little extras we all, perhaps, have come to take for granted. Take, as an example, the Fourth of July activities that have, under Nicholson’s guiding hand, grown to include a very special recognition of local veterans, a special tribute that has paid homage to men and women who richly deserve the accolades.
That’s just one of many special touches she has added to the growing recreation and parks services that Clinton residents have come to expect.
Whatever differences Nicholson and the city had, we cannot imagine how they could have overshadowed all the good she did for so many.
We are sorry she is no longer a part of the city of Clinton and, eventually, others will be too.