Parks And Recreation Director Candidates Offer Vision For Payson

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As the application process winds down for the five candidates vying for the town's vacant parks and recreation director position, the decision to find the right fit for Payson falls on the selection committee.

After the formal interviews are completed today, Tuesday, Town Manager Fred Carpenter said a choice could be made by early next week, and ratified by the council at its next meeting on Thursday, Nov. 2.

"I think it's an excellent group of applicants," Carpenter said. "They did quite well with the process."

The five candidates addressed elected officials, town staff and a half-dozen residents during the public portion of the interview process. Bob Smith, town human resource director, asked the finalists to prepare a 20-minute presentation on how they would update the Payson Park and Recreation 13-year-old master plan.

Armed with printouts and PowerPoint presentations, each candidate outlined his or her proposal. Although the presentations focused on different aspects of retooling the document, three major themes emerged -- the need for public input, the formation of an ad hoc committee and an assessment of the parks' existing facilities.

A nationwide candidate search, which began in early September after former director Bill Schwind announced his resignation, yielded more than 50 resumes.

Through a comprehensive screening process and applicant attrition, the field narrowed to five.

The finalists were invited to Payson for two days of introduction and interviews. Yesterday, they toured the parks facilities, presented their master plan solutions, and socialized with town staff and elected officials over dinner.

Today, a selection committee comprised of Carpenter, Public Works Director Buzz Walker, Human Resources Director Buzz Walker and Councilors Su Connell, John Wilson and Andy Romance will conduct a full day of interviews.

Although Carpenter makes the final decision, he'll rely on the feedback of others to make the selection.

"I'm not making this decision in a vacuum," he said.

The new parks and recreation director will oversee an office staff of five and a program that employs 10 percent of the town's general fund and brings in about $200,000 worth of development impact fees a year.

The candidates

Nelson Beck -- Payson

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Nelson Beck

Current Position: Parks supervisor

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the parks department? "I think we do a very good job doing what we do with what we have. If we had a little more, we could do a lot more."

Why do you want this position? "After as many years as I've been here, I just have a lot of ideas I'd like to see happen."

Why are parks important? "They are the town's recreational facilities. They've got to be aimed at what the residents want when they're not at work."

Scott Brodhun -- Port Angeles, Wash.

Current position: Port Angeles School District Athletic Director

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Scott Brodhun

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the parks department? "What I've seen in terms of the facilities, the way they are planned, it has all the elements of being a great system.

Why do you want this position? "I have a desire to get back to my roots (as a former parks director). I really enjoy serving the public."

Why are parks important? "The quality of a community is determined by a number of things and too often people overlook the parks. It touches everyone."

Richard Manchester -- Two Rivers, Wisc.

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Richard Manchester

Current position: Two Rivers Parks and Recreation Director

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the parks department? "It's such a hard comparison. The parks are very nice. To be able to install that Astroturf is progressive. You have such an issue with water and you've been able to address it through design. I think updating the master plan is a good move."

Why do you want this position? "It looks like you're on the edge of implementing that comprehensive plan and it's an opportunity for me to use my skills."

Why are parks important? "They increase or decrease property value. They increase the benefit for kids because they're in a park instead of in front of a computer or TV screen."

Cheryl Thompson -- University City, Mo.

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Cheryl Thompson

Current position: City of University City superintendent of facilities

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the parks department? "They very much provide for sports. The ramadas (picnic areas) provide an important element in this community. The lake out there is just beautiful. It's being able to finish projects that we started and have the funds for it."

Why do you want this position? "The thing I like most about this area is it's a small town in a big town. I can see so much opportunity and growth here."

Why are parks important? "It provides a means for all of us to get the physical exercise we need and the open space we need. It gives us the peace that we need in this hurry-up world."

Creighton Wright -- Queen Creek

Current position: Town of Queen Creek assistant parks and recreation director

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Creighton Wright

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the parks department? "I think it's great that the town has the opportunity of updating its master plan so those strengths and weaknesses can be identified appropriately."

Why do you want this position? "I think there are a lot of opportunities -- increasing the tourism base, the recreation center -- for putting Payson on the map."

Why are parks important? "It has to do with quality of life. You're touching a lot of peoples' lives. If you think about it, everything we do is related to every other aspect of town government."

-- To reach Felicia Megdal call 474-5251 ext. 116 or e-mail

fmegdal@payson.com.

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