Park chief has job of her dreams Yeater marks decade as first female superintendent

April 18, 1997|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF

Deborah A. Yeater received a new pair of ice skates from her parents for Christmas every year from the time she was age 6 until age 18. She used them to skate at Lake Waterford Park in Pasadena, two blocks from where she grew up.

Now, milder winters often keep the ice from freezing thick enough for skating, but Yeater still spends most of her time near the lake in the 106-acre park at Waterford and Pasadena roads. )) Only now, she's not a skater, she's the superintendent.

She began working in the park as a teen-ager cutting the grass and bagging trash. Then, 10 years ago, after stints as the parks' maintenance foreman and as a ranger in another park, she became the first female park superintendent in Anne Arundel County.

"Basically, I just stayed right here," said Yeater, now 41, a cheerful, cherubic woman in a khaki shirt, green pants and a Smokey-Bear-style hat. "I loved being outside in the park" instead of "confined behind a desk."

Lake Waterford is one of the county's larger parks and offers activities such as fishing, picnicking and strolling as well as organized sports such as tennis, basketball and adult softball leagues.

Sometimes people wonder why Yeater has stayed around so long.

"There was never a negative response, but it was an inquisitive response" at her longevity, said Yeater, who is single and lives with her sister and niece rent-free in a county-owned house overlooking the lake.

"It's just never been a real important goal of mine to go looking for a husband," she said in her jovial, earthy voice. "I'm not sure I could do the mother role."

A role she does do well is superintendent -- overseeing two full-time and six part-time workers and a $200,000 park budget.

Yeater's status as the only woman superintendent is not deliberate, said Thomas L. Donlin, acting director of the county's Recreation and Parks Department.

"We frankly haven't had a lot of turnover in the park superintendent jobs," he said.

Worked while at school

While a student at Severna Park Senior High School, Yeater began working at the park after school and on weekends, mowing, picking up trash, cleaning toilets, raking leaves for $2 an hour, just like many of the neighborhood children she grew up with.

"That was kind of good money back then," she said.

She was hired full time in 1975 and, a few years later, became a foreman responsible for an all-male team of maintenance workers.

In 1981, a previous recreation and parks director suggested she go to the Maryland State Ranger School at the Patuxent Naval Base in St. Mary's County for a monthlong training course that covered law enforcement in parks and how to give park tours and nature walks.

In 1982, she became one of the first rangers at 231-acre Downs Memorial Park. Then, when the Lake Waterford superintendent transferred to Thomas Point Park in Annapolis in 1987, Yeater took over.

Knows everyone

"She's grown up here as a kid so she knows all the people," said Ray Cate, park maintenance supervisor, who has worked with her for 14 years at both parks.

Her $40,000-a-year job keeps her busy from 6: 30 a.m. to 2: 30 After hours, she chases off tres passers and responds when alarms go off. She also gets to know many of the regulars who bring their children to the playground and the anglers who fish in trout season.

"That's what kind of makes it so special to get the job," Yeater said. "To make the park that I had such a great experience in the same way for the kids growing up now."

Pub Date: 4/18/97

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