BY VERSHAL HOGAN
The City of Crossett is reorganizing its internal structure so that the Parks and Recreation Department is now part of the Public Works Department.
Along with the restructuring is the appointment of a new Parks Director, though in this case he’s not a new face in City Hall. The Crossett City Council voted Monday evening to appoint Public Works Director Jeff Harrison as the director of the parks department and to give him a $10,000 annual pay bump.
The former parks director, Larry Cantley, has resigned from his director position and has taken a role as a worker within the department. Crossett Mayor Crystal Marshall said Cantley’s move was “an amicable situation” and called the reorganization “a win for everybody.”
“I really want to express how grateful I am and how grateful the City of Crossett is for Mr. Cantley’s service and that he is staying on as a labor hand because of his experience,” she said.
Marshall said she had spent a considerable amount of time and energy figuring out a plan that would be in the best interest of Crossett, and that having Harrison head the parks department under the public works banner instead of hiring a new director would not only streamline operations but would save the city money. Only having to pay an additional $10,000 instead of a full director’s salary and benefits are, “an incredible value,” she said.
“I feel like Mr. Harrison has such a considerable amount of talent,” Marshall said. “I think the community will see the benefits of his talents very quickly. His (public works) department has been subsidizing a lot of (parks) work because we don’t have the staff to handle it, so he is not coming into it cold. He has a considerable amount of experience with it already.”
The mayor also said that she chose Harrison because she has seen how he manages the workers under him.
“I look at not only the quality (work) coming out of that department, but at the employee morale,” she said. “That’s a talent that he is bringing from his very long career in people management.”
Harrison spent more than two decades working for Walmart, and after six years at the former Crossett location on Main Street, he helped open the Supercenter location in Crossett. After leaving Walmart, he has spent the last 17 years working for the city, starting as the public works director, and later also picking up leading the Streets and Sanitation Department and now the Parks and Recreation Department.
The parks department currently has eight employees, some of which are part-time.
“I am excited about it,” Harrison said Tuesday. “I like a challenge and it is going to be a challenge, as I found out already today. There are a lot of things we need to get done, and we have a good team.”
Harrison said having Cantley around as a worker will be a resource as he gets started.
“I will lean on him quite a bit on a lot of stuff, and as I get more familiar with it I won’t lean on him quite as much,” Harrison said. “He has a lot of value and a lot of knowledge.”
The first thing the department is going to do is work, “to get our arms around general maintenance,” he said.
“I don’t think we need to add a lot of stuff until we are able to take care of what we already have got. We’ll be making sure our playground equipment is maintained and at a condition that when kids want to go out and play on it, it is available.”
Harrison likewise said he will have to spend some time getting familiar with the Scott McCormick Sports Complex.
“I have got to figure out who can do what, who is doing what right now, and what can be done,” he said. “We are going to work hard to make Parks and Recreation something (the people of Crossett) can be proud of. Anything I do, that my departments are a part of, we try to make it top notch.”