The Parks and Recreation Department has added more youth and vitality to its ranks with a recent hiring.
Joe Harris, fresh from the campus of Brigham Young University, arrived in Payson on Saturday and began work Monday, as the Athletics Recreation Coordinator.
Harris will be heading all youth and adult athletic and recreation programs. Mary McMullen, formerly of the post, has shifted gears to run the outdoors and trails programs.
Harris said that even in his short time in Payson, he realizes that the town provides an excellent opportunity for young families.
"This is a nice town and a good place to keep a family," he said.
And Harris knows a thing or two about family. He and his wife Morgan are parents of a 5-month-old son.
Harris is also the oldest child of a dozen children. At 24, his youngest sibling, a sister, is 9 months old.
His devotion to, and experience with, such a large family has undoubtedly led Harris to appreciate and understand the need for recreational activities.
"I really believe in civil engagement," he said. "It activates youth and makes them successful for life.
Originally from Green River, Wyo., Harris said that he is familiar with small town life and feels he is prepared to contribute to the community here.
"(Payson) is kind of like my own town," he said. "Everyone here seems driven. Things seem to get done in this town."
As for the recreation department, Harris said that after interviewing with Parks and Recreation Director Rick Manchester, he was impressed immediately.
"Rick really has the ball rolling," he said. "I knew this was where I wanted to start my career."
Harris said he has visions of expanding available youth and adult programs as well as creating new ones.
"I'd especially like to build some new adult programs," he said. "We need to keep our old programs running and get some new ones."
The former wrestler said that a youth wrestling program is one he'd like to help create. He believes that participation in any athletic activity contributes to successful child development.
"I've seen that high school athletics are more successful when there are youth programs available," he said. "Involvement in athletics especially, really activates and unites a community. There's a greater sense of community when everyone is involved."
Harris' interest in the community spans further than his recreation specialty--he plans to make Payson his home for quite some time.
"I've come here to live," he said. "I definitely plan to stay longer than the people who are in and out or come here for experience."
Harris said he is interested in community input pertaining to recreation and athletic programs. He can be reached at 474-5242 ext. 7 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.