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Longtime town employee steps down as director

Rachel Conger


Staff Writer

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Outgoing Jonesborough Parks and Recreation Director Rachel Conger probably never gave much thought to how many different areas she would need to master at her job.  Monday’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting might have clued her in.

Conger, who oversaw the entire department during her 12-year tenure, has shifted to a part-time position which was approved at the meeting.

The BMA also debated and ultimately approved the merits of dividing the position into two areas of responsibility.

Jonesborough Operations Manager Craig Ford said, “With what we have going on, at least certainly what we’ll have going on in the future, there are very distinct differences between what goes on in the Arts as opposed to what’s going on with, as an example, the little league athletic programs, the water park and the green spaces. So they are very different. And typically you have very different personalities doing those jobs.”

The loss of a director involved in so many facets of the department, the addition of so many green spaces over the years and the contrasting areas of the department prompted a recommendation to the BMA that the Parks and Rec Director’s job be split into an Assistant Recreation Director for Parks and Athletics Department, which would be filled by the former Assistant Director under Conger, Matt Townsend, and an Assistant Recreation Director for Arts and Special Projects, which would be advertised.

Alderman Virginia Causey began the discussion with the suggestion to fill the Parks and Athletics position and hold off on the Arts and Special Projects position.

“I think the Assistant Recreation Director that was recommended for the Arts and Special Projects should not be done. I think it should be that the McKinney Center staff and group will be the arts side and let’s re-evaluate in July … Let the staff that we have now, see what they can do. If they’re not doing what they need to do then we’ll look at hiring again in three to six months.”

At issue was the cost to fill Conger’s position, and whether the economic development of the arts required a director.

“From an economic development standpoint, the arts activities and a lot of the downtown activities have been very positive. The arts are already developing and I think we need to cultivate that and build on that,” Alderman Adam Dickson said. “If we embrace this idea of arts as economic development, then it seems like to have a person in place to make the plan work would be a good strategy. So I think that having a director that would cover all of the arts programming would be wise.”

After further discussion, a motion by Causey to approve the position description for the Recreation Director for Parks and Athletics, and fill the position with Matt Townsend was made and passed unanimously.

Another motion was made to approve the position description for Assistant Recreation Director for Arts and Special Projects but to wait three to six months to advertise in order to gauge how the town’s cultural and artistic venues, such as the McKinney Center and the Jonesborough Repertory Theater, could manage themselves.

Aldermen Terry Countermine and Dickson voted “nay” while Aldermen Causey, Stephen Callahan and Mayor Chuck Vest voted “aye” to approve the motion.

The final recommendation was the creation of a part-time position for Conger.

The board approved the position of Recreation Capital Project Planner.

The job would utilize the skills and knowledge she attained during her time as the Parks and Rec Director.

The Agenda Presentation from the meeting stated, “We are undertaking some capital projects, and it would be extremely helpful to have someone responsible for working with the architect, engineer, etc. to detail out every aspect of these capital projects.

“(Conger) has obtained very valuable insight on on-going capital projects because she helped develop them … The other area Conger can continue to be helpful with is revenue generation. We really need to focus on revenue producing activities, and obtaining sponsorships for a lot of our programming.”