Directing a booming rec and parks agency


Howard At Play

March 05, 2000|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

Name: Gary J. Arthur

Job description: Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks director since 1998. Began with the department in 1979 as bureau chief for recreation. Administers a department with a $17.2 million operating budget, an additional $3.8 million in construction-related money, 123 full-time employees, more than 480 part-time workers, and during the year, deals with about 300 contractors and about 700 volunteers. The department owns 53 properties, 30 of which have at least minimal facilities; they range in size and scope from Centennial Park's lighted ball fields and courts to neighborhood parks with a picnic bench or two.

Residence: Glenwood

Age: 52

Personal: Baltimore-born, Polytechnic Institute graduate. Clemson University alumnus with major in recreation administration. Three sons. Started recreation career on Baltimore County's east side, was Ocean City's recreation and parks director for seven years before his predecessor as director, Bill Mitchell, wooed him away from the Eastern Shore to the then-small county department.

Best thing about your job: "The diversity, in that it takes us from preservation of natural resources, through typical sports and recreational activities, to trying to provide programs for the disabled -- and that's a wide, wide gamut. The most challenging part of it are the public forums that are part of the public process, because it's hard to make the public understand all the [procedures] we need to go through."

Agency's greatest needs: "Creating balance between the increasing demand for facilities and those who want to keep things the way they've always been. Fields would be the single greatest need, and we're also seeing the same kind of demand and conflicts in the community for gymnasiums and other indoor facilities. It's come to this -- our department would and could handle more new undertakings, if we had the facilities. We're at a point where every youth organization says it is now turning away youngsters."

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