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Posted on: February 10, 2020

Director of Parks & Recreation leaves legacy of improvement

Parks & Recreation Director Colby VanGundy

During his time as the City’s director of Parks & Recreation, Colby VanGundy secured artificial turf for Riverside Stadium that has brought in players from far and wide for meets and playoff games.

Then again, said former Assistant Director of Parks & Recreation Danielle Williams, VanGundy’s expertise in ballpark maintenance has kept the city’s grass fields looking as sharp as any artificial turf.

VanGundy will retire this month after more than six years with the city, leaving behind a legacy of strong leadership, empowering staff and always looking for ways to raise the bar.

Williams, who will replace VanGundy as interim director in addition to her new duties as director of the Main Street Program, recalls that before VanGundy took over, the Parks staff hadn’t been trained in using specialized equipment for ball field maintenance. Thanks to his experience in that field, VanGundy was able to train a team to drag and chalk the fields and maintain the grass.

“He would either go out and show them how to use the equipment or get (Parks Operations Manager Monty Webb) to go out,” Williams said.

Keeping up the appearance of facilities became a priority under VanGundy’s leadership along with ensuring the department was properly equipped. For example, his background in mowing and field maintenance led him to set firmer mowing regulations and bring in new equipment to keep the grass healthy.

“His first priority was to make sure we had the tools to do the job,” Williams said.

Setting a high standard for facilities has paid off. During VanGundy’s time as director, the city’s sports venues have attracted an increasing amount of sports tourism for the area, which in turn has helped to raise Hotel Occupancy Tax funding.

“He was always very innovative with finding out what the issue was and how to tackle it,” Williams said.

VanGundy has experienced some challenging transitions during his time with the City, such as overtaking management at Riverside Golf Course. Also, after Hurricane Harvey, VanGundy was instrumental in establishing a new flood plan, clarifying which areas need to be blocked off as the river rises.

Williams said that VanGundy worked to train her and Recreation Services Manager Jaymie Heibel so that they would be able to manage the department in his absence. Heibel will serve as interim assistant director during the transition period.

Williams said the new director will be tasked with updating the department’s master plan to reflect its new priorities. Going forward, she said, the department will likely focus on expanding its events programming and attracting more tournaments to Victoria.

Even though VanGundy is leaving, the management style he helped to implement will continue to benefit the department.

“The department will definitely miss him,” Williams said. “I hope he gets to wear shorts on his last day.”

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