WILLIAMSON — After a lengthy search, the Williamson Board of Parks and Recreation has named Jarrod Dean to lead the city’s recreational efforts as executive director.
Williamson Park Board President Steve Wilson said Dean has been brought on as an interim director and will be hired for a 100-day period to start. He said that the decision came because the Park Board and Dean are both new to each other, so this will give them each an opportunity to get to know one another and properly evaluate the hire.
“First of all we want to evaluate his effort, his vision and his ability to implement during the 100 days,” Wilson said. “And then, of course, he is going to have the opportunity to take a look at this job and see whether or not he is really interested in pursuing this thing, so it gives him a opportunity to see kind of what he is getting into. I think it is a great idea, and I really like this concept.
“Every time I have an opportunity to speak with Jarrod I just get excited, and it’s because I think that the potential that we have in our area for recreation and creating a recreational destination right here in Williamson is really, really high. The things that we have talked about, if 25 percent of things we have talked about in our get-togethers come to fruit, our community is going to be extremely happy.”
Wilson said that in the past the Park Board has had challenges having a person involved with a vision like Dean.
“We’ve been praying about this. We didn’t know who God was going to bring to Williamson, but he did,” Wilson said. “That’s another story about how we happened to cross paths, but I feel like God has led us this crossing of paths.”
Dean resides in Hurricane with his wife, Andi, and their two kids, Ava, 5, and Alexander, 3. He said that even though they have been living in Putnam County, they had been attending church in nearby Logan County and had been praying for God to open a door for them to be able to move to Southern West Virginia.
“It is amazing that Steve said they have been praying for solutions and answers. My family has been attending church down here in Logan County, so we have been driving about an hour and a half to our church,” Dean said. “On a spiritual level, we have really been praying for God to take us away from our church and put us somewhere around home. We found out the more we prayed for that, the more God was drawing us to Logan. So we have really been praying for an opportunity to come about for us to move down this way and the right opportunity for our family ... we felt led to get down to this area.”
Dean has served as the Putnam County Parks and Recreation Commission (PCPRC) executive director since 2016. Before that, he worked with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture on Economic Development.
“Recreation is honestly one of the center points, the focal points of a community. Because parks and recreation can bring a lot of answers to a lot of families,” Dean said. “Through the events that goes on to the playgrounds for parents to bring their kids, too. It creates that synergy, it helps kids in their social abilities and even their mobility, especially if you are putting in an all-inclusive playground. That allows kids of all abilities to play together and creates that social interaction.”
While serving as executive director for the PCPRC, Dean helped orchestrate a $15 million, two-phase renovation that saw new turf fields implemented at Valley Park in Hurricane, updating the recreational areas and playgrounds and the construction of a new community center.
He says that bringing in new and positive energy in a community can have a major impact in several areas, including the reduction of crime rate and drug usage.
“My goal down here is to work with the Park Board and to develop spaces, whether we do new property acquisition to create those spaces but also to remodel and re-institute a vision in the properties that we already have down here,” Dean said.
“You look at the community center property. There is a pool sitting down there that has not been in operation. I’ve been down there, and I’ve evaluated it. I’ve looked at the damages that has happened over a period of time. Will that pool ever be opened? No, I don’t think that that pool will ever be opened, but can we create a Dollywood-type splash country kid pool with slides and things like that, possibly a campground, but also remodel that community center to be more modern and to look nice.”
Dean, who is an engineer by trade but has also served as the project manager of the Putnam County Commission, said there are grants available to help with projects such as that, but that the business community can play a big role in bettering a community.
“There are a lot of business people in Mingo County and in Williamson,” Dean said. ‘If we can pull everybody together with a vision, and then we look at the different paths that these people, businesses and even our delegates and senators in the state can help us get to that vision, you are going to see a difference in Williamson and a difference in Southern West Virginia.”
Wilson said that in the past the Park Board has been using their budgeted resources to enhance the facilities they have, primarily the Williamson Fieldhouse. But he says that Dean’s vision could help them take that next step.
“It’s one thing to maintain our properties, but what Jarrod is talking about is a whole different level,” Wilson said. “All of a sudden we’re projecting this out and realizing and recognizing that we have a lot of opportunities that are way beyond just simply maintaining our facilities.”
Dean’s first day on the job was Monday, Dec. 2. He said the public will notice a big change in the Park Board’s use of social media in the coming weeks.
The first official Williamson Board of Park’s and Recreation Board of Directors meeting with Dean in attendance was Monday at the Williamson Fieldhouse.
The Park Board’s meetings are at 6 p.m. the second Monday of every month at the Fieldhouse. Meetings are open to the public.