As the city of Clinton’s recreation program undergoes a significant transition, city officials have whittled down nearly 60 applications to a select several from which they expect to hire the person who will guide the department through that transition and into the future.
Last month, following a public forum held to gauge the long-range needs at the Clinton Recreation Department, city managerial staff shared its own plans for the immediate future. That included immediate changes to some Little League baseball fields and the hiring of a new recreation director.
Assistant manager Shawn Purvis hoped to have the position filled at the end of October. On Friday, he said the hiring process would take just a little bit longer, but wasn’t far off from that optimistic time line — and the extra time was for good reason.
“It will be a little bit longer,” he said. “We ended up with 50 to 60 applicants. We felt there were 10 or 12 that were pretty strong. In the end, that was a good thing.”
The large number of applicants alone gave plenty of potential candidates from which to choose. Purvis said an application process was followed up by a supplemental application for a smaller pool of those initial 50 or so, posing additional pointed questions, before the pool was narrowed a bit more. Phone interviews came next, and the pool whittled down with them.
There are now five finalists, who will take part in an assessment center on Tuesday.
“Hopefully the following week we would potentially make an offer,” said Purvis. “I know it extended the process a little longer, but we’re trying to be extra diligent to make sure we select the right person for the job. We feel like any of these five would do a pretty good job.”
The hiring of an athletic director would likely be considered following the hire of a director. Both positions are currently vacant, the most recent being the recreation director post vacated by Judi Nicholson in July after nine years in the position. Purvis said hiring the rec director position was the priority, with the AD post to be evaluated at a later date.
“There’s an array of qualities we’re looking for,” the assistant city manager said. “Along with experience, we are looking for communication and an ability for collaboration and building relationships.”
Purvis said, by the end of next week, a top candidate for the recreation director position could be selected.
“The hope is that we would make an offer to our top candidate by Nov. 5,” he said. An exact start date is not known, as the person would likely have to make departure arrangements with their current employer before starting with the city.
That person would be stepping into a new era of Clinton Recreation, one that is seeing not only a change in leadership but a shift in focus toward youth athletics and its facilities, and the development of a master plan for Royal Lane Park. That plan will act as a guide toward improving facilities that are around 40 years old.
At a public forum last month, a dozen people — there were numerous more in attendance — shared comments, concerns and wishes about recreation, ranging from seniors who did not want to be forgotten as part of a renewed focus toward youth athletics to those youth sports proponents who implored the importance of returning Royal Lane and city recreation back to its former glory.
City officials have promised more such meetings as the master plan is developed and city decisions are made.
“We want quality facilities and have the right number of facilities and make sure they are in the right shape,” said Purvis.
He noted that steps were already being taken by which baseball fields could be expanded, an effort toward having the kind of regulation fields it would take to ultimately host Little League tournaments and bring teams in from around the state — and see a boost in local tax revenue as a result.
“We’ve already pulled the outside fencing and poles and lights have already been moved on fields 4 and 5,” said Purvis. Such action was a necessity toward expanding the ball fields. A company will come in to install new fencing starting Monday, which should take less than two weeks.
That ball field expansion is one of many proposed projects that has already been started by the city, with still others on the horizon. It will be up to the next recreation director to work closely with city managerial staff in seeing that improvements continue to be made at Royal Lane, as well as Clinton’s other parks and recreation facilities.
“They’ll be heavily involved in that,” Purvis said. “The new director will have a challenge, but a good challenge.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.