Changes, death leave Rockwood parks, recreation short staffed

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By Cindy Simpson

Rockwood officials are looking at hiring a parks and recreation director in light of situations over the past year that have left the staff short.
Public Works Director Tom Pierce, who headed up the department, left earlier this year amidst allegations of city credit card abuse.
Another employee, Tobi Melton, resigned recently. Ricky Lawson, who was serving as an unofficial interim director, recently passed away.
Those developments have left the department with three employees: Ellen Kimsey at Rockwood Community Center, Mike Reed at the Mike “Brillo” Miller Sports Complex and a third temporary worker.
Mayor James Watts said it’s not ideal to have someone running both street and recreation, as Pierce did.
“It is like being married and having a girlfriend,” he said. “You can’t take care of both.”
Councilman Jason Jolly said he wants a candidate who can focus on all types of recreation, not just baseball and basketball.
The position will be funded with $20,000 left in a line item for park and recreation director and $20,000 in the public works director line item.
“Now is a good time to look at reorganizing if we’re going to reorganize here,” added council member Bill Thompson.
He suggested a called Rockwood City Council meeting to discuss restructuring, including the possibility of including the golf course as part of park and recreation.
Watts, however, said he thinks the city needs to have someone on board who felt comfortable running the operation. He said the new director could come to the city with a proposal on restructuring and personnel.
Thompson countered it might be unfair to get someone in here and later add more responsibilities.
Watts argued it might take too much time to restructure now. He said he doesn’t believe filling the position can wait.
Thompson said he’d be fine if they discussed restructuring with potential candidates.
Watts said the charter doesn’t require him to advertise the position.
“That is an appointment the mayor can make,” he said. “He is responsible for the recommendation of all department heads. If we can find the right person, I’d rather bring somebody in that I think would do the job rather than interview 30-40 people I don’t know.”
He added, “I have some people I’d like to talk to. They all have experience in I think what we’ve been looking for.”
City officials also plan to discuss hiring a full-time animal control and codes enforcement officer.
Andrew Smith resigned earlier this year from the animal control position.