Hudson happy to oversee Dover Parks and Rec’s growth

Kirby Hudson

DOVER — Kirby Hudson has found a new home with the city of Dover, in more ways than one.

Mr. Hudson, who had served as Dover’s assistant city manager since early 2015, was hired as the city’s new Parks and Recreation director three months ago.

He was on hand at the Council Committee of the Whole’s Utility Committee meeting inside City Hall on Tuesday night when it unanimously approved staff recommendation for Dutchman Contracting to design and construct a new $290,702 building to house Dover’s Parks and Recreation Department, which will sit adjacent to the John W. Pitts Recreation Center at 10 Electric Ave. within Schutte Park.

“I’ve always had some sort of a love for the parks,” Mr. Hudson said, “and I’m enjoying my new role as Parks and Recreation director. We have a lot of positive things that are happening in our department.”

One of those positive things includes that new 2,400-square-foot Parks and Recreation building that will be home to Mr. Hudson and his administrative assistant’s offices — along with a pair of programming directors — on the front side of the facility, while the back side will serve as the workplace for three new maintenance workers as well as room for equipment.

Once the building project receives approval by Dover City Council, construction is expected to proceed within 30 days and completed in 180 calendar days.

“One person just transferred over (to Parks and Rec) and we hired two, so it’s a crew of three,” Mr. Hudson said. “Council said they are hoping these three people under Parks and Rec are going to be exclusively used for enhancements and helping out in the parks, basically pulling out nasty, woody vegetation, giving it some curb appeal, cutting stuff back and also making repairs.

“We’re going to be doing all that to the pavilions and benches during the winter, so by the time spring hits we should be ready to go.”

City Manager Donna Mitchell told the Utility Committee on Tuesday that the budget for the new Parks and Recreation building was $260,000, so the winning bid ran $30,702 above its estimated cost.

“We are actually transferring some funds from the Schutte Park improvements project, which is not going to be all complete this year anyway,” Mrs. Mitchell said. “The grading and the stuff that they’re doing out at Schutte Park with the Master Plan, we’re actually using some of those funds to help make up this difference.”

She added that one of the changes is due to the construction of an additional bathroom, which will give the facility two.

“We were just going to do one bathroom, but there was concern that the administrative staff and with construction staff coming in from the field using the same bathroom that there might be a problem, so we decided to go with two bathrooms,” said Mrs. Mitchell.

Settling into new role

While Mr. Hudson is still settling into his new job as Parks and Recreation director, he will continue to help oversee the Dover Public Library.

“This is a really big job,” he said. “There are 28 parks in the city of Dover and a lot of people don’t realize there are that many parks. Some of them are little small pocket parks, but nevertheless, they have to be taken care of as well.

“I always felt that some of the parks were being underutilized and right now, thanks to Councilman (Roy) Sudler (Jr.), he was the one who brought to light a lot of the curb appeal that should be done to some of the parks, in particular, Dover Park.”

Mr. Hudson is not only accountable for the recreational programs offered by the city, but also for overseeing those 28 parks, including the large anchor parks of Schutte Park, Silver Lake Park and Dover Park.

Mr. Hudson said work to renovate Dover Park, also known as White Oak Park, is already underway and is one of his staff’s biggest projects.

“Right now, we have a contractor who’s out there who started (Monday) and they’re thinning out a lot of the trees, so people can still play Frisbee golf and enjoy the park,” said Mr. Hudson, of Dover Park. “More importantly, I’ve heard from so many people who have always thought that Dover Park may have had some issues, but nobody can actually pinpoint to what they are. It’s just perceptions.

“Once those trees are thinned out now when you go into that park, you’re going to have line of sight no matter where you look, so it’s going to feel secure. I’ve seen the police making more presence and they’re going in and out and we’ll also be putting some enhancements in there.”

He added, “My objective right now is to really make this a shining place for people to say, ‘Oh wow! I want to be over there to enjoy the park.’”

Experience to do the job

Mr. Hudson is originally from Mamaroneck, N.Y. He has lived in Delaware for 30 years and resides in Wilmington.

“This is the first time that I lived and worked in the same state,” Mr. Hudson said, when he was first hired as assistant city manager. “I’ll commute to work every day, but I’m excited about the opportunity. I’ll be interacting with different people and the type of different businesses the city has to offer is great.”

City Councilman Sudler believes that Mr. Hudson is up to his new role as Parks and Recreation director.

“I think he’ll do a great job,” Mr. Sudler said. “He has a go-getter’s attitude and is very innovative and has what it takes.”

Before coming to Dover, Mr. Hudson was city manager in Coatesville, Pa., for three years and assistant manager for six years before that.

Dover has not had a sole Parks and Recreation director since Zachery Carter, who was hired as the division’s director in 1988 and retired from the position in 2012.

Ann Marie Townshend, former director of Planning and Community Development for Dover, took over running the Parks and Recreation Department in 2013, in effect taking on two jobs for the city.

Mrs. Townshend held both posts until she accepted a position as Lewes’ city manager in March 2017.

Margie Cyr, who has served as chief librarian at the Dover Public Library since September 2008, took on the dual role of leading the Parks and Recreation Department on Oct. 4, 2017, on a six-month trial basis. Last year Ms. Cyr recommended the city hire a Division director that also has experience in parkland planning and management.

Now, it is Mr. Hudson’s turn to head the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

“We’ve got a lot of cleanup and we’re going to be introducing some new programming, which I know the public will be excited about once we unroll it,” Mr. Hudson said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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