Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority Executive Director Roger Short gives the thumbs up during the Columbus Soccer Complex opening ceremonies in this 2012 file photo. Photo by: Dispatch file photo
August 5, 2014 10:32:22 AM
"We" is the ideal pronoun for Roger Short.
Instead of doing his job as executive director of the Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority as a solitary figure, Short relished the opportunity to identify areas he could help improve the quality of life in the city of Columbus and in Lowndes County. When those programs or plans were developed, Short worked to build consensus or to find the best people and then let them do their job to make things happen.
In the past 12 years as executive director, that management style paved the way for numerous quality of life improvements and programs implemented that enhanced life for children and adults in
Columbus and in Lowndes County. But Short never believed he was the only one responsible for getting things done.
"It hasn't been me," Short said. "I just happened to be the one in the forefront. There have been a lot of people involved in it, as well as you guys (the members of the CLRA Board of Directors). Without your support, we wouldn't get to do anything. Without the financial support of the city and the county, we wouldn't get to do any of this. It ain't me. There have been a lot of other people involved. I have been able to get a lot of the accolades for it, but I am going to pass them on to everybody else."
On Monday night, Short officially announced his retirement to the CLRA Board of Directors. He will remain in his position until Dec. 31. Short said he wanted to give the board members plenty of time to determine how they wanted to fill the vacancy.
"It's that time," Short said to the board members at the end of the monthly meeting. "It has been fun."
Prior to becoming the executive director of the CLRA, Short owned Mississippi Industrial Supply, an industrial rubber supply house. Before that he owned The Fraction, a record store on 318 1/2 Main St. in Columbus. He also is a football and baseball official for the Mississippi High School Activities Association and the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools.
Short has worked at CLRA since March 1991. In his time as executive director, he has worked with the city and the county governments and the CLRA Board of Directors to help bring a spray park and a dog park to Propst Park. He also has been instrumental in helping to bring about numerous quality of life improvements, such the creation of disc golf course at Propst Park, the addition of countless programs for children and adults, the development of community centers throughout Lowndes County and, most notably, the Columbus Soccer Complex in downtown Columbus.
A man of many 'bosses'
Short said he never considered the number of roles he played in his years as executive director. Part counselor, manager, teacher, facilitator, administrator, and politician, Short juggled numerous responsibilities with one mind-set: Get it done.
"Whatever came up, I just tried to handle it," Short said. "What is so unusual about this position is that the city and the county fund us, but by our inter-local agreement, they can't tell us how to spend it.
My bosses were those guys (the CLRA board members). My bosses also are the city council and the mayor and the board of supervisors and the board president. What I have always tried to do is, if any of them came to me and wanted me to do something, if I could do it and I felt comfortable doing it, I would do it. If they came to me with something that I felt was a little gray, then I didn't do it, and I would tell them. I think that is what carried me through. I didn't just bow down, but I tried to accommodate if I could."
Scott Hannon, the president of the CLRA Board of Directors, jokingly asked Short on Monday if he had checked with his wife, Pam, to see if it was OK if he retired. Short said his wife agreed that it was time for him to step aside.
Hannon, who has been CLRA board president for the past two years and is in his second stint in that position, said Short has balanced the role of politician in a political job. He said Short has done a really good job identifying the needs and wants of all of his constituents and trying every year to improve quality of life programs and facilities every year.
"He has been very effective in getting things done for the city and the county and the park," Hannon said. "He has been very deft in bringing people together to get things done."
Hannon highlighted Short's work in getting the downtown soccer complex built. He said Short never gave up on it, even after years of trying and meeting with plenty of people who doubted it would happen.
Tom Velek, the director of coaching for Columbus United, the CLRA's Division II competitive soccer club, praised Short's perseverance and vision in recognizing the city of Columbus and the county needed a soccer complex. He said Short worked well with people because he listened to their concerns and worked to fix them. He said he also delegated authority and allowed other people who were more experienced in areas to help him get things accomplished.
Velek also praised Short for helping to develop CLRA's TOPSoccer program, a community-based training and team placement program for players with disabilities, which is organized by youth soccer volunteers. He said the free program doesn't generate any revenue for CLRA, but it enhances the opportunities and the quality of life for city and county residents.
"In my 10 years working with him, I think I have seen him lose his cool once," Velek said. "Quite frankly, I am shocked by that. With the number of infuriating situations that arise on a weekly basis, I am amazed he has been able to stay calm. He is a great manager, a great multi-tasker. He is able to juggle a lot of balls and very keenly navigate the political waters to get things done."
A tough act to follow
Former New Hope High School football coach Michael Bradley also has worked closely with Short. Bradley, who is now the football coach at South Pontotoc High, has umpired with Short and worked for five years as a staff member at Propst Park. In the eight years he lived in Columbus, Bradley said he saw consistent, moral leadership from Short that set a standard that will be difficult to live up to.
"Roger is a person of vision," Bradley said. "He is a person who wants to do things right. He is a person with a plan, and he is the kind of guy every guy hopes they get to work for. He will have your back in a tough situation and he will do what is right, no matter the ramifications or consequences of what doing the right thing may be. I have the highest respect for Roger as a leader and as a boss at CLRA."
After working with 20 versions of the CLRA Board of Directors, Short said a lot remains to be done, from reconfiguring the fields at Propst Park to increasing registration for the park's recreational sports programs to quality of life improvements. He said he will continue to work hard to put plans in place, and that he will stay on to assist his replacement in the transition into the position.
"The soccer complex is a big piece of the puzzle," Short said when asked about the things he helped accomplish. "They all have to be there, all of those things have to be in place. When we started to see the influx of good industry, I said then that these people are going to expect more than what we have been accustomed to and we have been satisfied with. I tried to focus on those things that some people might not even consider recreation (like the dog park). You try to put all of the puzzle together to make it work."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
2. Photos: Market Street 2015 COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
3. A closer look at the Lowndes Co. bond issue COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. Community unites for Nepal at MUW candlelight vigil COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
5. Starkville market, arts walk scheduled Saturday STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY