Rec director anxious to get started

STEUBENVILLE – Mary Beth Sills isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty and the city’s new recreation director said Thursday afternoon she will “hit the ground running” when she starts her job on May 27.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Board officially recommended the hiring of Sills during Wednesday night’s monthly board meeting after hearing a positive recommendation from City Manager Tim Boland.

Sills was one of five final candidates for the $41,000 job.

Former Recreation Director Troy Kirkendall resigned from the job in December 2012 citing tight city finances, and the job has been vacant with Mayor Domenick Mucci overseeing the administrative duties of the department.

“I am really excited to be coming back to Eastern Ohio and I look forward to working in the Steubenville parks and recreation department. This job is a dream come true for me,” said Sill.

Sills was born and raised in Byesville in Guernsey County and said she appreciates the small-town atmosphere and life.

“I was working as assistant director of the Reynoldsburg Parks and Recreation Department. That is a community of about 60,000 and is really a suburb of Columbus. It will be refreshing to come back to a small-town atmosphere where there is strong support for recreation projects. It will be nice to come to a community where recreation is an important part of the community,” remarked Sills.

Sills started her recreation career at the Licking District Park after graduating from Bowling Green State University with a degree in biological science.

“I started there as a seasonal naturalist and I ran the day camps where I taught environmental and historical issues. I stayed as an intern and was then hired as a special projects coordinator. But in 2011 the budget was cut and I was among the park employees who were laid off. I was then hired as the assistant director for the Reynoldsburg Parks and Recreation department,” explained Sills.

She has recently worked in a friend’s greenhouse as a general horticulturist.

But an item on her resume that impressed Boland was her skill in writing grants.

“We received 58 applications for the position when we advertised for the job earlier this year. After narrowing the list of candidates through the interview process, I conducted a second interview with Mary Beth Sills on Monday and I am asking the board tonight to select her as the parks and recreation director. I was impressed with her recreation management experience as well as her grant writing experience. I think that will be a major plus for the city,” Boland told the recreation board Wednesday night.

“I have close to $1 million in grants that I have obtained. And, I kept the contacts and information in case that can be of future use. So that is also something I hope to bring to the Steubenville recreation department,” noted Sills.

“I have already visited Belleview Park, Beatty Park and Jim Wood Park as well as the Martin Luther King Jr Recreation Center. I filled out some necessary paperwork for the city today and my husband and I plan to go exploring the city and look at more parks and recreational facilities this afternoon,” Sills said Thursday.

One of her first priorities after getting settled into her new job will be an in-house needs assessment study.

“We can do that ourselves at no cost to the city. And it will help me to see what is available here and what needs to be done. I also want to hear from residents on what they like in the city recreation area and what they want to see,” Sills said.

This won’t be the first time Sills has been in Steubenville.

“Growing up in Byesville I would come to Steubenville to visit the Historic Fort Steuben as well as other historical sites. I love history and think this area is so rich in history. I was excited to read about the route outlining Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan’s raid through Jefferson County I was excited. That is definitely something I will be checking out. I also participate in re-enacting, mainly the Civil War but also the French and Indian War. I usually serve as a nurse or as a laundress in the Civil War re-enactments,” related Sills.

“I love the outdoors and history. I am very content to be working outside or be sitting outside reading a good history book,” added Sills.

As a horticulturist, Sills is very interested in growing things.

“I have a vision as I come to Steubenville. One of my ideas is a community garden where we can teach kids how to grow plants and how some of their fruits and vegetables are grown. I know the recreation department operates the summer food program, and if the community garden takes off maybe we can donate the fruits and vegetables to the summer food program. We had a community garden in Reynoldsburg and were able to donate 2,500 pounds of produce to the Helping Hands Pantry in Reynoldsburg,” suggested Sills.

Sills is a member of the No Child Left Inside organization that encourages children to go outside and play for 30 minutes a day.

“I also helped install a disc golf course in the Licking District Park and during my visit to Beatty Park I saw there was a disc golf course there. I will look forward to meeting those players,” said Sills.

“I will be maintaining an open-door policy at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center. I am here to serve the city and I look forward to this job and coming to Steubenville,” stated Sills.

(Gossett can be contacted at dgossett@heraldstaronline.com.)