The Last Word with…Tracy Willette

Director, Bangor Parks & Recreation Department

Tracy WilletteTracy Willette landed his first job in the recreation industry at his local parks and recreation department when he was in high school.

"My first parks and recreation [job] started in parks maintenance after school and on weekends. I was moved to pool house attendant my first summer at Brewer Parks and Recreation," he said.

"I liked the work and continued part-time and seasonal employment through college, which ultimately led to my first full-time job. The parks and recreation field is one I came to enjoy quickly and one that I have thoroughly enjoyed," he said. "It is a profession that is anything but routine, as each day brings a new challenge and new opportunities to contribute to the community [that] we work in. I have been fortunate in each of the communities I have worked in to create new programming and initiatives that continue today. I can't wait to get to work each day."

Today, as the director of the Bangor Parks and Recreation Department in Bangor, Maine, Willette oversees a department that offers a wide variety of programs and facilities. (Some of the programs include adult and senior programming, camps, swim lessons, team sports, youth programs, as well as soccer.)

"Those facilities include 30 park and open spaces, a 27-hole municipal golf course, an outdoor aquatic facility, an outdoor pool, an indoor ice arena, a dog park, a community garden, a waterfront, which includes the 14,000-person Darling's Waterfront Pavilion (an open-air amphitheater located within the Waterfront Park in Bangor) and harbor operation," Willette said.

Year-round programming includes a before-and-after-school program, a four-location summer camp, the annual Kenduskeag Stream Canoe race, mountain biking programming, new and innovative golf programming, including a veterans program, and much more.

"In addition, we oversee event management for the city. There have been many accomplishments over the last 10 to 15 years that this department has made," he said. "Included is the management of the changing waterfront, establishing a community garden, establishing a large dog park, the growth of our waterfront, establishing a large before-and-after-school program, which just names a few."

He said one of his longer-term goals is to establish park and open-space opportunities in some of the underserved areas of the city. "We are fortunate here in Bangor to have the number of parks we do and the size of each one. As the city has grown to the outer edges geographically, we have several newer housing areas that do not have city parks in the close proximity as some of our older residential areas. It would be beneficial to add another park or open space area in those areas of the city," he said.

"Another additional goal is to continue the trail connection project we started a few years ago. This was a cooperative mapping effort between city staff and members of the community, where we mapped the existing trails and identified new connections that could be made to create a trail network citywide, which ultimately would make areas of the city more accessible for pedestrians," he added.

In his personal time, Willette enjoys the outdoors regardless of the season. "I enjoy golfing, biking, canoeing. I am fortunate that I can enjoy my own hobbies in a profession that includes many of these activities," he said.

And, when asked what advice he would give to new recreation industry professionals, he said, "to get ready to work in a profession that is constantly 'outside the box'.

"Each community is different in its recreational needs and what they look for in facilities and programming," he added. "Be ready to adapt and not become routine-oriented because the profession is anything but routine."