Wisconsin Man Hired As Parks Director

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Rick Manchester, who currently heads the Two Rivers, Wis. Parks and Recreation Department, said he's accepted a conditional offer as Payson's new parks and recreation director, filling the position left vacant by former director, Bill Schwind.

"My wife and I are very impressed with the services available in Payson," Manchester said. "Not only the priority placed on professional local government services, but also retail, recreation, library and events."

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Rick Manchester

Town Manager Fred Carpenter said council ratification of the search committee's decision is the only step remaining in finalizing the deal.

"He has an excellent background in parks and recreation," Carpenter said. "And he's well-qualified."

Manchester rose to the top of a list of 53 applicants who went through a rigorous screening process, complete with a battery of written questions, a public-speaking presentation, a night out with town officials and an extensive background check.

During his Oct. 26 presentation to the council, the public and town staff, Manchester proposed an overall modernization of the parks master plan. He employed humor to underscore his points. His use of town-government colloquialisms, such as NIMBY, "not-in-my-backyard," garnered a chuckle from the audience.

"The most difficult part of the interview process is being able to portray abilities as a department head, as the parks and rec guy, and as a community member," he said. "The town manager is seeking one set of skills and the town council is seeking another set. The selection process uses situations to determine how a candidate fits into the community and the executive team. It is very impressive and well-thought out."

Manchester comes to the Rim Country from a town similar to Payson. Two Rivers -- with a population that equals Payson's 14,000 residents -- sits on the banks of Lake Michigan. And like Payson, Two Rivers is located in close proximity to Wisconsin's metropolitan areas, thereby providing him with an understanding of the pitfalls and pleasures of urban growth and a tourism-based economy.

The first charge Manchester will face is updating the parks' 13-year-old master plan. Carpenter said Manchester is scheduled to take his position Jan. 1. The salary range for the Payson Parks and Recreation director is $68,000 to $100,000. Carpenter said his pay falls somewhere in the lower half.

Manchester comes to Payson with his wife and three school-aged children.

The council will ratify the decision during its special town council meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday at town hall.

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