Aldermen interview two parks director candidates

 

Lynn Spruill

Lynn Spruill

 

Mayor Lynn Spruill, left, and the board of aldermen interview Craig Dolan, center, for the city's Parks and Recreation executive director job on Friday. Dolan is one of two final candidates out of the 21 that applied for the position. He currently runs the parks department in Tarpon Springs, Florida, in the Tampa area.

Mayor Lynn Spruill, left, and the board of aldermen interview Craig Dolan, center, for the city's Parks and Recreation executive director job on Friday. Dolan is one of two final candidates out of the 21 that applied for the position. He currently runs the parks department in Tarpon Springs, Florida, in the Tampa area.
Photo by: Tess Vrbin/Dispatch Staff

 

Starkville aldermen interview Thomas Peters, on screen, Friday for the Parks and Recreation executive director job. The previous director, Gerry Logan, left at the end of March. Peters is currently the interim director of wellness and intramurals at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

Starkville aldermen interview Thomas Peters, on screen, Friday for the Parks and Recreation executive director job. The previous director, Gerry Logan, left at the end of March. Peters is currently the interim director of wellness and intramurals at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina.
Photo by: Tess Vrbin/Dispatch Staff

 

Leah Kemp, right, director of the Carl Small Town Center in Mississippi State University's College of Architecture, Art and Design, explains a proposed outdoor dining area on Main Street to the board of aldermen at their work session Friday. The board will vote Tuesday on the concept and later on whether they want to implement the

Leah Kemp, right, director of the Carl Small Town Center in Mississippi State University's College of Architecture, Art and Design, explains a proposed outdoor dining area on Main Street to the board of aldermen at their work session Friday. The board will vote Tuesday on the concept and later on whether they want to implement the "Streatery."
Photo by: Tess Vrbin/Dispatch Staff

 

 

Tess Vrbin

 

 

Starkville aldermen interviewed two candidates for the vacant Parks and Recreation executive director position at their Friday work session.

 

The final two of the 21 applicants are Craig Dolan, the director of recreation in Tarpon Springs, Florida, and Thomas Peters, the interim director of wellness and intramurals at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina. They made their cases to Mayor Lynn Spruill and five of the seven aldermen via video conference, the second time the city has conducted interviews entirely remotely. The first time was in January 2019, when the board interviewed candidates for community development director.

 

Gerry Logan, the previous parks director, left at the end of March to take a position as Mississippi sales representative with MUSCO Sports Lighting. David D'Aquilla, a member of the design team for Cornerstone Park, has been serving as part-time interim director.

 

 

Dolan has 15 years of experience in recreation and has held his current position since 2014. He previously worked in the recreation department in Largo, Florida and has both a bachelor's and master's degrees in sports management. He has also worked for the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida.

 

He described himself as "passionate about sports" and a fast talker because he grew up in New Jersey. Ward 3 Alderman David Little asked Dolan about his management style, and Dolan said he does not micromanage his staff but is sure to display his passion for his job.

 

"(I believe in) being a motivator, giving them the skills necessary and showing them where they need to be, but also being honest and open with them and not having them be afraid to fail," Dolan said.

 

He said he was drawn to Starkville partly for career advancement and partly because he has family in Mississippi. He owns land near Oxford and his in-laws are Mississippi State University graduates, he said.

 

Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, the board's budget chairperson, asked about the size of the recreation budget Dolan manages, and he said it's about $1 million. Starkville's recreation budget is more than $1.7 million.

 

He also said he has experience obtaining grants for Tarpon Springs' recreation programs, in response to a question from Spruill, and he also is involved in marketing for the department.

 

"I have a gentleman who does our digital marketing, so I spin out a lot of ideas and he creates them," Dolan said.

 

 

Peters

 

Peters' career in recreation started when he was growing up in Louisiana. He worked for the parks department in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, for almost four years before he took his position at Claflin University in August.

 

"I wanted to become a director, and I kind of got overlooked at Pine Bluff," Peters said.

 

He said two other things draw him to Starkville: he is an associate pastor of a church in Jackson, and Starkville is building a new recreational facility, Cornerstone Park.

 

One of his biggest challenges in Pine Bluff was learning how to publicize the parks department in a small city with two colleges, he said, and he is learning how to write grants

 

"I'm really good at talking to people and getting money out of people," Peters said. "The worst thing anybody can ever tell you is no."

 

He managed a parks budget of about $1.3 million in Pine Bluff, and he said the budget decreased over time, so he is used to "tightening the belt," as Spruill said the city will have to do thanks to the expected sales tax revenue shortfall during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

 

"If we don't need it, don't buy it, and as much as we can do in-house, we do in-house," Peters said. "Even though I'm the director, I don't mind getting out there and cutting grass to help out our facility guys."

 

Like Dolan, Peters said he does not like to micromanage his staff, but he said he regularly follows up with them to make sure they get things done.

 

Spruill told The Dispatch there is no set date for the board's decision yet.

 

"I'm going to let them chew on it a little bit and then check on them next week," she said.

 

 

Other business

 

The board will consider a permit for "marches and protests distinct from the special event permit requirements," according to the meeting agenda. The racial justice march and rally in the city on June 6 was a response to "a movement of national importance" and planned on such short notice that the organizers did not have the time or resources to secure a special event permit. Spruill said at the time that the city needed to re-evaluate its permit process to allow for "spontaneous" expressions of First Amendment rights.

 

The board will also vote Tuesday on the concept of the "Streatery," a temporary outdoor dining space proposed and designed by the Carl Small Town Center in MSU's College of Architecture, Art and Design. The seating area would cost about $4,000 and take up nine parking spaces on Main Street between Restaurant Tyler and Moe's Original BBQ, Carl Small Town Center Director Leah Kemp said. The aldermen will decide at a future meeting if they want to implement the Streatery.

 

The board will vote to advertise for bids for the last of three sections of the sidewalk linkage project funded by a Transportation Alternatives Project (TAP) grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation. The city, Oktibbeha County and MSU partnered to seek the grant funding in 2018. The proposed section would extend a multi-use path east from the Blackjack Road-Highway 12 intersection to provide access to MSU's campus along Bully Boulevard.

 

 

 

 

printer friendly version | back to top

 

Get a roundup of top stories, recipes and more in your inbox weekly (we never share your email)


 

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST


 

UPCOMING AREA EVENTS

 

 

Follow Us:

Follow Us on Facebook

Follow Us on Twitter

Follow Us via Email