A familiar face is back and in charge of Mineral Wells' parks and recreation department.
It is the same role Andy Tarkington was in back in 1994-2000, a time that included the construction and opening of the West City Park Aquatics Center. (There were never plans for a pool cover, he said.)
He is a 1978 graduate of Irving High School and attended the University of Texas-Arlington.
"I thought I was going to go into coaching," he said.
But he began student teaching and took a part-time job with the City of Irving in its recreation department.
"I liked it and I stuck with it," said Tarkington, now in his second week back in Mineral Wells.
His entire career has involved working with, or leading, municipal parks and recreation departments. He said he has worked for a dozen cities. Before returning to Mineral Wells, Tarkington worked for Ennis, south of DFW, where he implemented that city's first recreation department.
He inquired about the Mineral Wells parks and rec superintendent position when he saw the opening posted.
The agenda for Wednesday's scheduled meeting of the Mineral Wells Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
"I enjoyed my time here and wanted to come back," Tarkington said. "I thought I could make a bigger difference being a department head, rather than a division head."
In Mineral Wells, Tarkington will oversee a $1 million parks and rec budget. He has a parks technician and three parks employees, and four people in the recreation department. During swim season that expands to a weekend facility manager and a dozen lifeguards.
Still feeling his way somewhat through his first couple of weeks on the job, Tarkington knows what he wants to do.
"I want to improve the parks system and I want to get the recreation programs going again," he said.
Rec youth volleyball has done well, but other youth and adult sports and rec programs have slipped. Tarkington said he started the city's youth basketball leagues. In recent years, other youth leagues like Upward Bound and Mineral Wells Youth Sports Association have successfully provided youth hoops.
That's OK, said Tarkington. He said the city doesn't need to compete with successful programs as long as they are being offered. He said he will work with those organizations to provide whatever help they need, such as making City Gym available for games.
Tarkington said he also wants to work closely with the youth track and swim programs.
"I think they have been left out on an island by themselves," Tarkington said. "I think they are doing a good job. I just want to be sure their needs are being met."
He is in line to become president of the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation, or TAAF, in two years and he wants to ensure the track and swim programs, which compete under the TAAF banner, are strong and supported. He said in 1994 the programs and numbers of people competing in sanctioned-leagues resulted in Mineral Wells honored as a TAAF Membership City.
Registration is underway this week for the fall youth and adult volleyball leagues. For registration information call 940-328-7803.
Adult basketball and softball leagues have slipped in recent years. Tarkington said he plans to focus on those, as well, to try and rebuild those leagues. The city's two softball fields need improvement, he said.
"We are going to have to work on them to make them playable," he said.
Tarkington said he wants to add, bring back or expand programs like yoga, aerobics, exercise and fitness classes and karate, among others at the gym and Activity Center.
The swimming pool complex is now 20 years old and, while in good shape overall, needs some work and repairs. The 2019-2020 budget includes $35,000 for repairs, some of which is mechanical. A fire earlier this year damaged the pool complex's mechanical building and some equipment.
City council also provided $50,000 toward parks improvements, hopefully as a grant match to add and replace equipment especially at southeast park, commonly known as Plastic Park. A focus on providing playground equipment for special needs people has been requested.
Tarkington said he plans to seek more grants, but new open parks study is needed before going after some of those.
"They are not going to accept a 1996 study," he said. "We have some needs."
Several of those topics are on Wednesday's parks and rec board advisory board meeting, set for 6 p.m. in council chambers at the City Hall Annex. The agenda includes discussion on a conceptual plan for southeast park, development of an overall master plan and looking at the coming fiscal year's budget.
This week the department started a new Facebook page, called Mineral Wells Parks and Recreation Department, that Tarkington hopes will help rebuild some of the programs and offerings.
"Right now, I am just figuring out what needs to be done," Tarkington said.
With aging facilities and some programs that have lagged in participation, he has a lot to do.