Wendell’s new Parks and Recreation Director is only about two weeks into the job, but he is already working to accomplish some of the goals other town officials set for the department before his predecessor retired.
Jeff Polaski arrived in Wendell at the beginning of August from Farmville. He is taking the place of Brinkley Wagstaff, who retired at the end of June after working with Wendell for 13 years.
Polaski joins the staff just as the town is beginning to look at ways the parks and rec department could get involved with a larger effort to drive more traffic downtown and help with a general revival in other pockets.
“I know with Wendell Falls, there’s going to be a huge influx of families coming to the area of Wendell,” Polaski said,. “(We have to) figure out how to grow (because the families) are going to be looking for new stuff.”
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Polaski’s former employer, Farmville, was like Wendell in that it was relatively small, but he said he was drawn to Wendell because of the potential its parks and rec department has now that town officials are making it a priority.
“(Farmville) was a great recreation department but the town wasn’t growing. We were maxed out,” he said. “(I wanted) a change to a more active department with more budget and a community that wants more.
Polaski already has some tentative plans he wants to introduce to the community. He wants to expand the kinds of sports the town offers and also introduce the town to other activities.
Living right outside of Greenville allowed Polaski to become familiar with many professional BMX riders. He said he is working to plan an exhibition event in the early spring for residents to watch some of the professionals on their bikes, sign autographs and then host a skills clinic.
He also wants to bring in the U.S. Army Special Operations unit that handles ice carvings during the winter at the White House. He wants to have that on display downtown as well as set up a time for residents to observe how those carvings are created.
“I’m just trying to bring some more things in and encourage more foot traffic downtown,” he said.
In Farmville, Polaski helped the town receive a state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant that paid for improvements to the town’s park. He began his career by working with Greenville recreation programs, but later moved into the nonprofit sector through the Special Olympics.
He became an area director but as the economy took a turn for a worse, the job was less secure. At that point, Polaski decided to re-enter the municpal sector.
The announcment of Polaski’s hiring comes a few weeks after the town made David Bergmark the new planning director after serving as an interim since January. Bergmark has been a member of the planning staff since 2007.