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Parks and Recreation Manager follows his dreams

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By Jennifer Garcia

  For high school students, deciding what they want to do with their future is sometimes a hard choice. While some students aren’t sure what career path they want to take, others have a clear-cut idea of what they want to do when they grow up.  

  Los Alamos County Parks and Recreation Manager Randy Smith was one of the students who always knew which career path he wanted to take. A native of Ohio, Smith attended college at Eastern New Mexico University, where he obtained a degree in recreation. “I knew in college, that this is what I wanted to do,” Smith said. While in college, he began taking classes and working towards a degree in wildlife management, however, after his friends alerted him to a degree program in recreation, he quickly switched gears and started taking classes for that degree program. In addition, he began to volunteer as a referee for youth basketball in the early 70s. “It was more than just tossing out balls,” Smith said, “I realized that working with kids seemed to be important. I began taking dance classes, art classes, play production and water safety instruction classes. I set the stage, realizing here’s my endeavor for the rest of my life.”

  After Smith graduated from college, he held various positions, however, they almost always had something to do with recreation. He served as the director for the Boys and Girls Club in Carlsbad for five years. After that he went to El Paso, Texas, where he spent 15 years as a center director.

  Smith did divert from his career path, however. He wanted to explore other career opportunities so he moved to Williamsburg, Va., where he held positions in accounts payable, payroll, construction and a variety of other jobs. It was during this time that he also married his high school girlfriend. She had been living in Ohio and he had been living in New Mexico. “Distance was the problem,” Smith said of the relationship. They decided to move to Williamsburg, all the while knowing that eventually they would settle in New Mexico. In the meantime, however, the couple explored Virginia, living in Suffolk and James City.

  Smith’s father-in-law became ill and the couple left Virginia and moved back to Ohio. “It was a promotion and we were closer to family,” Smith said. The couple stayed in Ohio for seven years until his father-in-law passed away. Shortly after that, the position in the recreation department opened up and the couple returned to New Mexico and have been in Los Alamos ever since. “We wanted to move to Las Cruces for retirement,” Smith said, “but we love being close to Santa Fe and Taos. Northern New Mexico is great.”

  As the CPRP manager, Smith oversees the staff that provides service to facilities. He’s also responsible for the ice rink, golf course, fair and rodeo, special events, outdoor recreation and class programs. In addition, he monitors staff, does budget strategic planning, maintains community contacts and does marketing and promotions work.

  He said that one of the biggest challenges that he faces as CPRP manager is finding activities for people in the community who are active outdoors. “In a community that loves recreation, they value their recreational activities. People cycle, swim, hike, etc. The challenge is to provide a wider range of services to people who value their recreation.” He’s also working on developing programs for people who are not active outdoors. “The challenge is to find out hat people have an interest in. We need to find and work on those activities for those who are not as active,” he continued.

  Smith said that the most rewarding aspect of his job is working with the community. “I missed the contact with citizens when I was out of (the) recreation (field),” he said. “We deal with all ages, economic levels and ethnic backgrounds. We’re here to provide service to the community. Dealing with such a variety touches parts of our community more than other departments in local government,” he commented.

  Some of Smith’s goals are to expand programs, maintain quality programs and be better recognized in the community. In addition, he’d like to improve the Parks and Recreation Web site and promotional materials. He would like to have greater exposure to the public and make them aware of what Parks and Recreation provides.

  Smith pointed out that in past recreation jobs he’s held, there were always improvements that needed to be made to the staff that he worked with. However, he said that his current staff is terrific. “They are quality, motivated and great to work with,” he said.

  When he’s not busy overseeing staff and thinking of ways to improve upon programs, Smith likes to read. He particularly enjoys Southwest history, Western history and learning about other cultures. He also likes to ski, golf and experience new places that he’s never been to.

  Though Smith has no immediate plans to retire, he feels that recreation will always be a part of his life in one form or another. “I’ll probably end up mowing golf courses or ball fields,” he joked. “I’d like to have a recreation connection when I retire.”