An office sit-down is fine, but talking outside is better.
That’s one of the messages Scott Rodgers delivers subtly during an hour-long discussion geared around the state of play in Commerce.
Named the city’s recreation director in March, Rodgers took over the position in April with his mind fixed on creativity and cooperation.
Above that, however, is Rodgers’ clear stance on his current location. He is finally where he wants to be — at the helm of a recreation program that’s not too big, not too small and ripe with opportunities.
“I love it here. I am so happy to be back here. I love recreation, love departments of this size,” he said, looking to the fields at Veterans Memorial Park from his seat on the bleachers. “I think Commerce has all sorts of potential that has not been tapped into yet.”
An Athens native, Rodgers graduated from Georgia Southern University and the University of Georgia with undergraduate and graduate degrees in recreation and leisure studies.
His career path followed the academic track with job titles, coordinator to director, logged in various parts of the state as well as South Carolina. One of his most cumbersome jobs was in Mount Pleasant, SC, where Rodgers guided a staff of nearly 40. That’s where he realized the biggest paychecks don’t necessarily yield the most meaningful rewards.
“I wasn’t in it for the reasons I got into it in the first place,” Rodgers said. “Seeing the excitement recreation brings to (a community) is what excites me.”
The 42-year-old started plotting a return to the hands-on, nitty-gritty work of building strong programs stronger and new programs from scratch. It couldn’t happen in an office setting alone, Rodgers said.
He seized the opportunity in Commerce, sensing it was the right fit professionally and a rare chance personally. The job put him closer to his family in Athens as well as his new wife Christy Tucker, a Barrow County teacher.
The two married last Saturday. They planned no immediate honeymoon, with Rodgers pledging to work this week and expecting to work upcoming weekends.
“Not working weekends is not an option,” he said, in an effort to underscore his commitment.
As part of his mission, Rodgers started connecting with others inside and outside Commerce, including colleague Ricky Sanders, who leads the Jackson County parks and recreation department.
They have exchanged some ideas related to new youth programs such as golf and how, if at all, the partnerships they forge could kick-start more opportunities.
In a similar way, Rodgers is promoting a town hall meeting to discuss Commerce citizens’ recreational priorities and how they could intersect with Commerce City Schools’ goals. Currently, the public entities cooperate on facilities usage with the swap of ball fields and basketball gyms.
A date and location for such a meeting will be finalized soon, added Rodgers, who envisions a greater sports tie binding the two and further promoting sports and recreation here.
“The key is going to be the relationship between the school and the city,” he said.
Revenue is expected to be one of the biggest hurdles for the department, regardless of any partnerships formed. The 2012-2013 fiscal year budget is presumed to be tight.
One of Rodgers’ first goals is to schedule Veterans Park ball fields for use when they would be dormant otherwise. Hosting travel teams or tournaments is likely to happen soon, Rodgers said.
“If we can fill these fields up every single day of the week then that’s what we’ll do,” he said.
What he doesn’t want to occur is any sacrifice of one program for the sake of starting up another. That’s where creativity comes in as far as funding, partnering and creating recreational programs that are self-sufficient, he added.
This is especially the case for adult recreation opportunities, which are lacking. Water aerobics, and its corresponding exercise group that meets at the parks and recreation office, is the exception.
Rodgers encourages any residents or instructors with ideas on how to enhance programs for non-youth residents to contact him at the office or attend the town hall meeting.
“We want to add what people want,” Rodgers said. “I have an idea because of the trends. But I want to know specifically what the people of Commerce want.”
For more information about Commerce Parks and Recreation Department, or to share ideas with director Scott Rodgers, you can call him at 706 335-3236 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.