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New Parks and Rec Director for Jackson

New Parks and Rec Director for Jackson

There is a new director at the head of the Jackson County Parks and Recreation Department, after commissioners made their selection official late last month. 

Jackson County commissioners finished off their Dec. 19 meeting with a closed session, after which Chairman Mark Letson announced he was seeking a motion to approve candidate Michael Hopkins as the new Parks and Recreation Director. Hopkins was approved unanimously.

Hopkins grew up participating in recreation department programs and has now been working for Jackson County for 25 years. He began working with parks and rec part time during his college years doing maintenance work for various fields and parks. Soon after he began work as the Youth Athletics Director.

Since then, he has worked as the Cashiers Community Center director, assistant director for the entire department, and now, director.

“I have been able to see and work in many different areas during my time and those experiences have helped me to grow as a professional,” said Hopkins. “I’m looking forward to working with a talented group of co-workers.”

“In our field of work, we tend to work while others play and spend a lot of time with one another, it’s like we are an extended family,” Hopkins said.

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The county is currently in the process of constructing a new aquatics center in Cullowhee. The indoor pool project is costing the county over $20 million .

“I’m also looking forward to the opening of the new indoor aquatics facility as well as new park projects in the Cashiers and Whittier areas,” said Hopkins. “The next 10 years as we look to develop a new master plan for the recreation department it is exciting to see how much more we are going to grow.” 

The biggest challenge facing the Parks and Recreation Department, according to Hopkins, will be keeping up with the growing demands in the industry, as well as overall growth in the area.

“This is a good problem to have as we want to be able to add or make available programs, parks and open spaces to all areas of the county,” said Hopkins.

On the more personal side, the new director said he knows he has a challenge ahead of him in filling the shoes of previous department head Rusty Ellis. While Ellis has worked as parks and recreation director for more than 10 years, he has been with the department in other capacities for even longer.

“We have had tremendous leadership and I just hope to do half as well as them,” Hopkins said.

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