New director; more park improvements

Mike DonilaOur Town Outdoors

So, the big, big news is that Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs has hired Joe Mack to serve as the county’s senior director of the Parks and Recreation Department.

As someone who sat in on almost all of the first round of interviews – there were 12 candidates as I recall – this guy is a rock star. If I’m not mistaken, he was the No. 1 person on everyone’s list even before the names were trimmed down for the second and third rounds.

Joe Mack

And that’s saying something because all of the candidates were outstanding. No kidding. There wasn’t a dud in the group and it was not an easy decision. But I really think Mack is gonna do a great job. He’s smart and humble. Two great attributes for a leader. On a side note, the mayor’s chief of staff, Dwight Van de Vate, conducted the second round of interviews and then Dwight and the mayor did one-on-one, in-person interviews with the two third-round finalists.

Joe Mack served in the Navy for 30 years before retiring as a master chief petty officer. He’s served as the director of the Parks and Recreation Department in Covington near Memphis since July 2016. There, he managed a $2 million budget, 30 full-time and part-time employees, a 20,000- square-foot facility, more than 200 acres of parkland, 13 sports fields, a year-round aquatic center and a museum. His first day is Tuesday, July 6. We look forward to him joining the county! Also, a big shout out to Shauna Godlevsky for stepping in and filling the director role in the interim. She did a great job!

In other big news, our carpenters finished the new dock at Melton Hill Park, replacing the old one that was several decades old. They would have wrapped it up sooner, but we had to wait on new parts.

We also started work on playground surfaces at Tank Strickland and Mascot parks. We’ve had some questions about Mascot and why it’s been closed for several weeks. Unfortunately – like with the Melton Hill dock – we’re waiting on parts. That playground should be open by mid-July.

Our one-person machine Frank Christian has been out and about in the parks this past week, restriping and pressure washing at Carter Park and Walker Springs Park, and putting up new signs at the Cove and other parts of Concord Park.

On the recreation side of the department, signups begin July 1 for Knox County Youth Fast Pitch at Nicholas Ball Camp Park – home of Girls Recreation Softball. The league’s purpose is to provide girls with the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of the game and promote fun, learning and the ability to work together and support others as part of a team. Please call 865-215-6600 for more information. In addition, volunteer coaches are needed. Learn, compete and have fun!

The folks in the Knox County Engineering and Public Works also have been moving and grooving this past week. Here’s a snapshot of what that department has done:

  • Jenkins Road – Guardrail repair
  • East Knox Rain Garden – installation of rain garden
  • Pickens Gap Road – side drain culvert repair

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the library system.

In January, Mayor Jacobs challenged all Knox Countians to stick their nose in a book for one million hours! It was a daunting challenge, but at the halfway point of the year, we are on track and halfway to our goal! Knox County readers have logged NEARLY 500,000 hours in the Read City USA Beanstack Tracker App. When we all focus on reading as a community, we’re helping kids become better readers. And that will help them be better students, find better jobs and be better citizens. Keep on reading, Knox County!

Enjoy this carousel of photos of work across the county:

Mike Donila is communications director for Knox County government

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