Park director deserves more qualified successor

To the editor:

Cro-ny-ism: the appointment of friends and associates to positions of authority, without proper regard to their qualifications. Remember this word and its definition as you read the rest of this letter.

The recent announcement about the retirement of Jasper Parks and Recreation director Ken Buck was not unexpected. Ken has spent 47 years giving outstanding service and devotion to excellence as Park and Rec director. In my 15 years as sports editor of The Herald I developed a close association with Ken and saw the degree of professionalism he brought to his position. We knew he would be a tough act to follow and expected the city to go all out to find a new director who had the credentials that would make him (or her) worthy of being Ken’s successor. A complex operation like the Jasper Parks and Recreation department is a profession, not just a job. It takes special education and considerable prior experience, plus an innovative mindset, to qualify.

With last week’s announcement of the new Jasper Parks and Recreation director, my first reaction was: “You’ve got to be kidding!” After Ken Buck spent nearly a half century building a program that is the envy of many other cities, we are getting a new director whose only qualification is that he has taken his children to almost every park in town? Really? What about education credentials or previous park and rec experience, all of which Ken Buck — and Jim Schmidt before him — had? What about professional relationships and management expertise that come with long years of experience? What about promoting one of the excellent assistants who have been carefully nurtured over the years as possible candidates for the job? I know nothing about the new director except what I read in the Herald’s story, but he seems to lack the most basic skills and experience required for this position.

Ken Buck definitely deserves Jasper’s gratitude for his devoted service, but Jasper deserves a much more qualified successor than the one we’re getting. Looks like somebody really didn’t think this one through.

—Jerry Birge

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