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The Pickett line: New parks team ready to go to work in Caledonia


Chris Clardy stands at the entrance of Ola J. Pickett Park in Caledonia Tuesday afternoon. The Caledonia Parks Commission hired Clardy as its parks director on Feb. 26.

Chris Clardy stands at the entrance of Ola J. Pickett Park in Caledonia Tuesday afternoon. The Caledonia Parks Commission hired Clardy as its parks director on Feb. 26. Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff


Slim Smith



Until Monday, the job of managing Caledonia's Parks Department was a one-man gig. 


But when the Caledonia Parks Commission hired Chris Clardy as its parks director on Feb. 26, the commission wasn't finished. 


"It's a one-man position, but it will eat one man alive," Parks Commission chairman Mike Savage said. 


If anyone should know, it's Savage, who became the town's first parks director in 2013 and served as interim director until Clardy's hiring. 


On Monday, the board remedied that situation, hiring Matt Matthis as assistant director. 


Both jobs are part-time positions. Clardy will be paid $1,000 per month and Matthis will be paid $500 a month. 


Most of the job will entail overseeing operations at the town's recreational hub, Ola J. Pickett Park. 


"I really think it's going to be a good situation," Savage said. "Our thinking was that we have baseball and softball and we have soccer, so it could be a situation where one person oversees one sport while the other oversees the other sport. It gives us flexibility." 


Clardy, who has been on the job a week, has yet to talk to Matthis. 


"I know Matt, but we haven't really talked about the job since he wasn't hired until last night," Clardy said Tuesday. "I'm looking forward to hear what he has to say and his ideas. We've really hit the ground running. Baseball and softball season are just around the corner, which is the biggest time of the year for our park." 


Clardy, 32, said he could see a point at which the two men might split the jobs of overseeing the two main sports, but for now, he favors being directly involved in both. 


"I think there might be a time when one of us handles baseball and softball and the other handles soccer, but for this first year, I want to be involved in everything," Clardy said. "It's important to get my arms around everything because it's kind of a new situation with the parks. I think both of us need to start by learning as much about everything that goes on out here. After that, we can take a look and see where it makes sense to divide things up." 


In September, town aldermen voted to establish a Parks Commission, which would be responsible for all park operations, appointing seven members to staggered terms. Parks operates with a $140,000 budget. 


Savage was elected as the commission chair, based on his experience with the parks. 


"Our regular meeting is the first Monday of every month, but we've been meeting about every week, just trying to get everything organized," Savage said. 


Although Clardy is new to the job of parks director, he's been a familiar face at the park, where his two daughters have played softball and soccer. 


"I think the commission was just impressed with his passion," Savage said. "Everybody knows him because he's been a volunteer at the park for years. I think he'll fit right in." 


Clardy said his familiarity with the park, especially its sports leagues, will help as he transitions into the management role. 


"I was already involved in a lot of the things, so I feel like I kind of have a head start," Clardy said. 


So far, the response has been positive. 


"We thought the numbers might be a little down this year because we're doing something new by having a park commission," Clardy said. "But it's been just the opposite. We have more than 500 kids signed up for baseball and softball, so the numbers are up from last year." 


The town also had 320 players in its youth league soccer program. 


"I really think this is just the start, that it's going to get better and better," Clardy said. "The town really supports our parks. It's always been that way."


Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]



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