Smithfield’s parks and recreation director is retiring at month’s end after 30 years with the town.
Assistant director Gary Johnson will fill Tim Johnson’s shoes until the town can hire a replacement, a process expected to take three months.
Johnson, a Smithfield native, joined the Parks and Recreation Department in 1984 as an assistant director. He became director in 1997.
After retiring from the town, Johnson will take a job with the state’s parks and recreation division. He will help manage two grant programs that have awarded Smithfield about $3.3 million over the years.
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“It took exactly the right thing at the right time to come along, and it was still a tough decision,” Johnson said. “Because any time you’ve done anything for 30 years and you’ve enjoyed the majority of it, it’s hard to leave that, especially when you enjoy the people you work with.”
At first, Johnson wasn’t sure if he would retire after reaching 30 years of service. But a friend who recently retired gave him some advice: “He said, ‘You’ll know when it’s time,’” Johnson recalled. “I knew the timing was right, and things kind of fell into place.”
When he started, Johnson said, the Smithfield Parks and Recreation Department was just a handful of people managing a few ball fields scattered across town. Now, the department is centralized at the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center with an indoor pool, basketball courts and multipurpose rooms next door to a park with ball fields and paved walking trails.
Before he leaves, Johnson plans to finish an inventory of all Smithfield parks and ball fields. All need maintenance and improvements, he said.
Johnson will hand off an ongoing project to build a “Miracle Field” and “Inclusion Park” next to SRAC. The park and field will serve kids with disabilities. The project, led by a nonprofit, plans to break ground next month.
Johnson said he will miss the energy of SRAC and Community Park, especially on busy weekends when hundreds of people come for tournaments. He loves seeing people inside and outside having fun and staying healthy.
He will also miss the relationships he’s built over the years. Johnson has been involved with hundreds of kids’ lives through athletics.
“Now their kids are coming through and playing,” he said. “Seeing those that have been through our programs and been successful go on to successful careers, that’s just really good to see.”
Tim Kerigan, Smithfield’s human resources director, said the town is looking for a replacement with a parks and recreation background, plus aquatics center experience.
Smithfield will consider internal and external candidates, Kerigan said. Johnson made $79,633.88 a year. Johnson will make $60,000 in his new role with the state. The pay range for his replacement is $58,552 to $89,584.
“I’m saddened to see Tim leave,” Kerigan said. “He’s been a tremendous asset to the town.”