The City of Manhattan is inching closer to naming its next Director of the Parks and Recreation Department.
The four finalists will be on hand at a Monday public reception following an all-day visit with department heads and city staff.
Manhattan partnered with Strategic Government Resources on a national search, which produced 43 candidates from 16 states. Deputy Manhattan City Manager Jason Hilgers says it’s been a long process over the last 10 months.
Hilgers says despite some of the turnover experienced within Parks & Rec, those who stayed have played a key role in keeping the department moving forward, led by Assistant Director Wyatt Thompson, who has served as the interim director since the retirement of Eddie Eastes last May.
Looking forward, Hilgers says the next director will take over a department that he believes has some momentum behind it.
Biographies of the four candidates (listed below) were shared this week by the City of Manhattan.
- Raymond Dunham has more than 30 years of parks and recreation experience in a municipal setting. He currently serves as the Deputy Director/Special Use Facilities Division Director for Greenville County Parks, Recreation, and Tourism in Greenville, South Carolina. Dunham has worked for Greenville County since 2003 and currently is responsible for overseeing an operational area that includes various recreation facilities, three water parks, an indoor aquatic complex, a therapeutic recreation camp/retreat center, an equestrian park, and an ice rink complex. He manages a $19 million budget and a team of 80 full-time staff, as well as more than 350 part-time employees. His prior experience includes four years as an adjunct professor at Clemson University (Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management Program), two-plus years with the City of Ames (Iowa) Parks and Recreation Department as its aquatics and activities supervisor, and three-plus years with the City of Johnson City, Tennessee as programs manager. Dunham is a Certified Park and Recreation Professional (CPRP) and holds a bachelor’s degree in recreation management from Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida.
- Matthew Enoch has more than 25 years of parks and recreation experience, primarily within a military community setting. He currently serves as the Community Recreation Chief for Fort Riley. In his current role, Enoch is responsible for overseeing an operational area that includes six fitness centers, three aquatics facilities, a 120-acre adventure park, a trap and skeet range, a softball quadruplex, a library, a 39-bay automotive skills center, intramural sports programs, and an animal shelter/adoption center. He manages a $4 million operational budget in addition to capital improvement funds. His team is composed of 24 full-time staff and 65 part-time employees. His prior experience includes five years as Branch Chief, Community Recreation Division at Fort Riley; three-plus years at Fort Knox, Kentucky as Branch Chief, Community Recreation Division; and almost two years as Supervisory Recreation Specialist with U.S. Army Garrisons in Hawaii. Enoch is a Certified Park and Recreation Executive, and he holds a bachelor’s degree in park resource management from Kansas State University and a master’s degree in public administration, also from Kansas State University.
- Jeremy Rogers has more than 20 years of parks and recreation experience in a municipal setting. He currently serves as the Community Services Director for the City of Pinole, California, overseeing operations for three regional parks, 42 neighborhood parks, three community centers, animal services, and library services. Prior to that, he served as Community Services Director for the City of Visalia, California. Rogers previously served as Parks and Recreation Director for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, KS from 2014 to 2020. In that role, he managed a budget of $8.6 million and a team of 80 full-time staff members. Rogers is a Certified Park and Recreation Professional, and he holds a bachelor’s degree in health/physical education from Sterling College and a master’s degree in sports administration from Wichita State University.
- Aaron Stewart has more than 25 years of parks and recreation experience in a municipal setting. He currently serves as Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Garden City, where he is responsible for leading a department that operates 11 parks (totaling 640 acres), an aquatics facility, all recreational programming, an accredited zoo, and a nationally ranked golf course. He manages a $9 million budget and leads a team comprising 63 full-time staff and 250 part-time employees. His prior experience includes four years as superintendent for the Garden City Recreation Commission, two years as sports coordinator for the Carbon Valley Parks and Recreation District in Colorado, and a total of six years with the City and County of Broomfield, also in Colorado. Stewart is a Certified Park and Recreation Professional and holds a bachelor’s degree in parks and recreation administration.
The public reception will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday in the City Commission Room at City Hall, following the monthly Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, which starts at 4:30 p.m.
Hilgers will supervise the new director. He says city administration plans to move quickly on a decision after Monday.
The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, which meets at 4:30 p.m. Monday will include discussion over 2024 to 2028 capital improvement project recommendations as well as consideration for some interpretative signage to be placed along Linear Trail.