Parks Manager Randy Gordon marked 35 years with the City of Round Rock in 2014. Below Randy reflects on his past with the City and what he thinks the future holds.
Q. When did you start with the City?
A. I started Sept. 19, 1979. I had gone to A&M and majored in recreation and parks and wanted to find something in the field. I’m from Houston and I worked there for about a year after college. Then I came to Austin looking for a job and applied in Round Rock. At first they didn’t have anything but then an opening came up and they called me.
Q. What drew you to parks and recreation as a profession?
A. Some people know immediately what they want to do in life but I kept changing. I started out in accounting and then went to environmental design and then ended up in parks and recreation. Part of it was figuring out what I didn’t want to do and what I was interested in. I saw some neat opportunities in parks. It involves working with communities and a lot of variety.
Q. Did Round Rock even have a Parks and Recreation Department then?
A. We did have a Parks and Recreation Department which was very small. Sharon Prete had been here for a short time before I started and within a couple of years she became the Director of Parks and Recreation..
Q. What was your title when you first started?
A. It was an entry level position called a Parks Keeper. Now it would be a Parks Maintenance Worker. There were three other people in the Parks group. Our yard was in the area behind where the McConico Building is now. We would meet where the parking lot is now. We had a lot of stuff going on here in the yard. At that time the parking area behind McConico housed: Public Works, Parks and Recreation equipment shop, the fleet maintenance shop, the dog pound, and the fire station.
Q. How many parks did the City have at that point?
A. We didn’t have Old Settlers yet. We probably had about 20 or so. I was surprised coming here from Houston to find that there were several parks in this small town. We had about 12,000 people. The big parks were McNeil, Lake Creek and Memorial Parks.
Q. Did you have any ball field facilities?
A. Yes, at Memorial Park we had The Bluff. That’s still there now. We used to have small fields in the area around 620 and I-35. This was where the Old Settlers Tabernacle used to be located and next to it was Brent Bustin Field, which we maintained. The fence is still there but they don’t use the fields. There were also softball fields at McNeil Park.
Q. What do you like best about working for the City?
A. There’s a lot of variety that you are challenged with every day. You work with great people. You get to work on special projects. You have day to day tasks and sometimes you’re developing new projects or ways to do things. Sometimes you’re focusing on maintaining what you have.
Then there’s always special events. Those have grown in number over the years. The main events were Christmas Family Night and Fourth of July. We’ve added a whole host of other events since then.
The City has been very supportive of people’s development and training. If people will stay and be engaged in their work, they have a lot of opportunities for growth here. It’s been a blessing to be a part of the City at a time when it’s grown so much and changed so much for the better.
Q. What do you think has been the most significant change in your department for the City?
A. Technology has been such a significant factor. Also, financing has changed a lot. Support for parks and recreation in the community has really grown. I think people understand the importance of parks in terms of quality of life. So we’ve seen people come to believe in the benefits of parks and recreation. That means more budget support for community projects. We have a lot more flexibility.
Q. Do you think that peoples’ attitudes have changed toward parks over the years?
A. I think people do value our services more now. Our surveys show that people want more trails and are very supportive of a regional trail system. They are really excited about our trail projects and we see people on the trails all the time.
Q. What do you think has been the most significant development for the City as a whole?
A. The City has been very proactive about economic development and that has helped the City as a whole. It brings in companies that help with the tax base and helps make a stronger city. Our leaders and planners have been wise in how they have managed that growth. We’ve had some really good leadership and that’s reflected in all the departments. We’re an innovative city and we get great customer service ratings.
Q. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
A. I’d say growing in leadership development over the years. I think that is important for anyone coming into the City. I learned management on the job and the City has been good about providing training. I’ve also learned by mistakes. I’ve learned helpful tools and how to apply leadership in my job.
Q. What do you think has been your greatest challenge at the City?
A. I suppose keeping up with the fast growth with limited resources. You always feel like you’re behind. Then you have the pressures that go along with that. It’s been a challenge that has been worth the effort.
Q. What do you see for the City in the next five years?
A. That’s a great question. How to prioritize what’s important, I think. It will be key to balance the different voices and needs out there. You don’t have enough resources to say yes to everything. Our population continues to grow. The dynamics are going to continue to change. We have some big issues to address, like conserving our water resources. It’s going to be a challenge because the City is going to keep growing.
The City is a great place to work. It provides some great opportunities. I’m ready for the next 35 years!