Former Payson Parks Employee Keeps In Touch With Friends In Community

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Former Town of Payson Recreation Coordinator Joseph Harris e-mails every week or so seeking Rim Country updates.

He also writes about what is occurring in his new hometown of Los Alamos, N.M. where he moved to June 10, 2010 after leaving Payson.

Harris has received a job promotion there and is now the county aquatics program director.

He began as a recreation coordinator for sports and special events.

About moving to aquatics, he says, “I jumped over to our pool here. We have a 25-meter by 50-meter pool with a small therapy pool on the side. We have anywhere from 200-400 people visit the pool per day — three swim teams, three adult masters teams and a lot of lunch-time scientists.”

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Joseph Harris

He says the most popular sports among youth in the town are swimming, soccer, track and cross-country and the team sports, like football and basketball, are not as popular as they are in Payson.

He also says the town’s high school is very academically oriented, with most of its graduates attending college.

In fact, Harris says he hasn’t met a Los Alamos high school graduate who hasn’t attended college.

A quick Internet check reveals that the town is New Mexico’s best-educated community, with more than 68 percent of the adults possessing at least a bachelor’s degree. The medium family income in the town is $86,876.

As impressive as that fact is, the most striking thing Harris writes about Los Alamos is, “the economy is very steady.”

That’s in sharp contrast to what the Payson economy was during Harris’ tenure with the town.

Those who know him will recall he worked for the local parks, recreation and tourism department when it was undergoing huge budget cuts and operating on a shoestring financial plan.

Early in 2010, town recreation programs were in danger of being cut and the four-person staff had to seek the help of volunteers to keep offerings going.

Just two years earlier, a budget plan adopted by the town council resulted in a 37-percent cut to the recreation department.

It was the efforts of recreation leaders Charlene Hunt, Deb Rose, Mary McMullen and Harris that kept the programs operating.

Harris hasn’t given any reasons why the Los Alamos economy is steady, but it’s most likely due to the presence of its world-changing science and technology departments that include a national nuclear laboratory that employs almost 12,000 people and in 2010 had an operating budget of about $2 billion.

While it’s obvious Harris is flourishing in his new hometown, he admits he misses the hours he spent helping coach the Payson High School wrestling team and supervising town-sponsored youth sports.

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