Tim Williams looked into several different majors in college: psychology, international business … Then one day he saw another student walk by with a jack-o’-lantern carved at a program offered by the local parks and recreation department.
It feels kind of silly to admit now, he says, sitting in the office of the Astoria Parks and Recreation Department after his first few weeks on the job as the new director, but that pumpkin caught his interest.
He had long been involved in sports as a player and a coach throughout his childhood and into his early adult years, but there was something about that encounter, the realization of the many programs parks and recreation might offer besides sports, that made him look more closely at a career.
Williams was hired in December to replace Angela Cosby as director. Cosby had led the department through a difficult transition to a budget that truly reflected the costs of operations. There had been program cuts and staff had weathered months of uncertainty.
“This was going to be the year of stability,” City Manager Brett Estes said. Also, it was the first year of “going through and saying, ‘OK, where are things budgeted too high, where are they budgeted too low?’”
Cosby herself had planned to spend the year focused on rebuilding and evaluating the department’s internal processes, until a job possibility came up in Colorado that she didn’t feel she could ignore. Her departure came at a time when Estes was already looking to fill several other department director vacancies.
Now Estes will look to Williams to work with staff to put those internal processes and procedures into place, to ask, “Are we being efficient? Are we being effective?”
Williams, who grew up in rural southeast Idaho, has experience at different kinds of parks departments, including in Roswell, New Mexico, where he oversaw divisions such as a zoo and a cemetery. While Astoria is one of the smaller departments he’s been involved with, the parkland is similar to other places he has managed.
“What really intrigued me about this was it seemed like a great opportunity to get more involved with the community,” Williams said. “There’s great leadership. People really know their stuff and then the altruism of all the volunteers and volunteer groups. The staff is second to none.”
Williams moved here with his wife and the three youngest of his six children. They had visited Astoria before, but this is their first time living in Oregon. His downtime is spent with his family.
“If they have an activity, I follow them,” he said.
As Williams becomes more familiar with what the department offers and what the community wants, he hopes to conduct an analysis of recreational providers. He plans to look at what groups and organizations provide programs for youth and identify gaps the department could fill.