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Yates named city parks and recreation director

Staff writer

Margo Yates was named director of parks and recreation Friday for a new city department that will begin operations Jan. 1.

Yates was one of three candidates interviewed by city council members Chad Adkins and Melissa Mermis, Mayor Todd Heitschmidt, city administrator Roger Holter, and recreation commission member Jordan Metro.

“Knowing she had been here 22 years, she had a familiarity with the community and with the current recreation program,” Heitschmidt said. “Although the program’s not going to look like it does now come January.”

The city accepted responsibility to take recreation under its wing in July, and filled the position in advance of the department’s official start date in order to aid transition from the current program to a new format.

Yates has been director of the Marion Recreation Commission, but is excited for a new challenge and a new style of recreation program.

“We’re not going to do things the way we’ve always done them,” she said. “An expanded rec program will be good for the community. We want to offer more activities for all ages, and we get to devote a full-time effort to it.”

Accompanying Yates in decision-making for parks, recreation, and cemetery matters will be a board of nine community members. Heitschmidt said those positions haven’t been filled yet, though he is hoping to recommend and select board members by Nov. 9.

Yates already has a number of ideas for programs she wants to incorporate in the new department, including many she tried in the past but discontinued for lack of interest or funding.

“We kind of got away from the smaller activities,” she said, “and focused on bigger things that had larger enrollments.”

Yates mentioned soccer, pickleball, and lake activities among the many new program ideas she has.

“Some things you can’t measure, but Margo Yates’ enthusiasm for Marion means a lot,” Heitshcmidt said. “It adds a lot to any program. We’re excited to have an expanded recreation program that offers more than just fee-based activities.”

With Yates giving the city a full-time commitment from her end for parks and recreation, the status of other operations in which she was heavily involved are now bigger question marks.

Though Yates said she will keep her phone number and email address, she will not continue as Marion Chamber of Commerce secretary.

Her involvement in Art in the Park also brings into question whether that event will be continued. Heitschmidt said he foresees that problem working itself out.

“It’s a big enough benefit to the community that I think, one way or the other, we’ll have Art in the Park next year,” he said.

Yates said she and fellow coordinator Judy Christensen will meet with prospective volunteers in January before making a decision on how to move forward with it.

Chingawassa Days has its own commission and should be unaffected by her or the chamber’s future plans.

Heitschmidt said that, along with Art in the Park, Chingawassa Days was something the city would now have closer ties to in a “behind-the-scenes” capacity.

The city still has to hire an employee to work under Yates as program director. Heitschmidt said both candidates who applied for and were not awarded the director job could be considered for the position.

Holter said the target date to hire a program director is late February, when the recreation commission’s annual basketball season concludes. Holter said the commission would handle programming responsibilities through the finish of that season.

“It wouldn’t be fair to anybody to switch horses just for the sake of switching horses,” Holter said.

Yates said her office will keep its phone number, (620) 382-3425, and email, chinga@eaglecom.net, through the transition.

Aside from her contact information, Yates said things will be different, but she’s excited for the challenge.

“You can’t keep things the same all the time or you can’t progress,” she said. “It’s just the natural progression for the town, I guess. There’s a lot of possibilities on the horizon.”

Last modified Oct. 22, 2015

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