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Transforming LA One Park At A Time

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County > Dick McIntyre, colleagues talk about his legacy

By Arin McKenna

Los Alamos County parks and public spaces have taken what many would say is a turn for the better during the past 10 years. Parks Division Manager Dick McIntyre, the man who spearheaded those efforts, retires today.

“I think everything that he’s done has been very visible to the citizens of the county, and they don’t always even know who’s responsible for the improvements that we saw over his 10-year tenure as department manager. But they certainly see the effects and appreciate how nicely things are kept up,” said Parks and Recreation Board Vice Chair Robert Walker.

“Probably the thing I hear more than anything else is how much everybody likes the hanging baskets of flowers on Central.”

Parks Superintendent Jeff Humpton outlined some of McIntyre’s contributions.

“Dick has been instrumental in so much of the upgrade to the parks system. He instituted a tree-planting program throughout the parks. He was instrumental in getting plantings in the medians. He built three dog parks,” Humpton said. “East Park was kind of a dead park. Now there’s miniature golf, a dog park, a basketball court and tot lot. It’s become one of our most loved parks after Urban and Rover.”

The credit for renovations to Urban and Rover Parks also goes to McIntyre, as do the Camp May renovations and upgrades to Ashley Pond Park.

Two attributes stand out for those who have worked with McIntyre: professionalism and creativity.

“I think there’s respect, appreciation and a fairly uniform agreement among the people I’ve interacted with that he has really done a terrific job in bringing a high sense of professionalism to the management of the parks in Los Alamos,” Walker said. “He’s been a pleasure to work with. He’s forthright and open and I think he has always put the needs of Los Alamos County and the parks right at the top of his agenda.”

“He has taken this parks department and made it a very professional group. He’s taken on the training and development of his crews. He has taught us things like proper pruning and fertilizing, and why we do the things we do,” Humpton said. “Being a landscape architect, he sees the world with a whole different view than we do. I go out and build it, but he dreams it. He has a more artistic view.”

“Dick, in my mind, is really an artist. You can’t sit with him for more than 15 minutes and he’ll be grabbing a piece of paper and drawing a sketch of something. He’s a very visual person, and he has a great sense of aesthetics. I really appreciate that about him,” said Community Services Director Charlie Kalogeros-Chattan, who has worked with McIntyre for eight years as a colleague and the last two as his supervisor.

“I think you can really see that in a lot of the transformation that has occurred in town. I’ve been here for 12 years, and for the 10 years that Dick’s been here, I’ve slowly watched him transform the community.”

“For me it’s a passion,” McIntyre said. “It sounds corny, but it’s a reason to exist, to be able to do something positive, to do something that helps people, that makes the place a better place to live.”

Although McIntyre said he is “comfortable” with his retirement and has no regrets, he admitted, “I really wanted to see the Canyon Rim Trail extended. And there’s lots of potential to do a lot of things here and really make the town and community attractive and appealing to others and useful to the citizens.”

But none of that stacks up against McIntyre’s reasons for retiring.

“I’m 66 years old, and I don’t think I have a whole lot more to prove,” McIntyre said. “We’ve had some friends pass away recently, unexpectedly, and it makes you think about your mortality a bit more.

“I like my people and I’m going to miss that camaraderie and the friends that I’ve made here. But I’m not going to miss the daily grind. And as you get older, instead of becoming more patient you get less patient.”

McIntyre’s first major accolade came when he was in the Peace Corps.

“He told me a really funny story about how his time was up, and the guy in the village where he was didn’t want him to go. So Dick made some wisecrack like, ‘Well, just get the Shah’s permission for me to stay,’” Kalogeros-Chattan said.

“And next thing he knew, his boss said, I have this letter from the Shah saying that if it’s at all possible, we’re to keep you here another year. So he stayed, two years instead of one. That was as his career began, but it was one of the defining moments.”

McIntyre himself is reticent to talk about his accomplishments, saying he was just “trying to reach the potential we have. I was fortunate enough in most cases to have my ideas become reality.”

When asked what he is most proud of, McIntyre responded, “I saved a guy’s life with the Heimlich maneuver at De Colores one time, which I think was more meaningful to him than anything else.”

McIntyre and his wife Margaret plan to stay in the area. McIntyre said he will probably help with Ashley Pond Park now and again, “but if they give a call, generally I’m just going to hide and relax.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with him and I will really miss him,” Kalogeros-Chattan said. “I always learn from him. I learn great things that help me do my job better.

McIntyre’s official retirement is not until October, when he has used accumulated vacation and sick time. County staff is discussing whether to fill his position before then and what they want in the next parks manager, but no decisions have been made.