Friday, February 14, 2020

Raymond welcomes new Recreation Department and Director

Joseph Crocker (right)
By Briana Bizier

Raymond residents are eagerly anticipating the latest addition to their town: a new Recreation Department headed by a new Recreation Director. Joseph Crocker, the Town of Raymond’s most recent hire, will begin his tenure leading Raymond’s newly-created Recreation Department later this month.

We’re really excited about this opportunity,” said Don Willard, Raymond’s Town Manager. “It’s an
enormous step forward for the town.”

Originally from Old Orchard Beach, Joseph attended Saint Joseph’s College, where he earned a degree in Exercise Science. He then continued his studies at New England College in New Hampshire, earning an MBA in Sports and Recreation Management. Although he grew up on the Maine coast, Joseph has always felt a connection to the Lakes Region.
My family has been camping in the Lakes Region for 28 years,” Crocker said. “It’s been a special place in my life. I love the area and the community.”

After graduating with his MBA, Crocker went on to teach a Business in Sports Management class at Saint Joseph’s. He also worked for recreation departments in Saco, Auburn, and Kennebunk. Most recently, Crocker held the position of Program Coordinator for the City of Lewiston.

Coming from an urban environment might seem like disparate experience,” Don Willard explained, “but I believe he will fit well with the Raymond municipal ethic. Raymond prides itself on doing a lot with a little as would likely be the case in a small city. We have a fiscally responsible attitude, while also striving to maximize the effectiveness of our programs. Joseph will have that ability.”

Crocker’s time in Lewiston also taught him how to coordinate with the community’s volunteer groups in order to create new programs. “We’ve grown things organically by connecting with outside groups who don’t have the means to grow by themselves,” Crocker explained. As an example, he has helped to coordinate the Lewiston Sparks recreational cheering team, which has become an affordable, entry-level program thanks to the combined efforts of community members and the Lewiston Recreation Department.

Working in Lewiston, Crocker regularly relied on volunteer support. “You definitely have to work as a team,” Joseph said as he explained his plans to work with and strengthen Raymond’s existing recreational programs.

Raymond seems very involved,” Crocker continued, “and the town wants to have someone to be a resource to help with these programs.” Raymond’s existing programs is extremely important to Town Manager Don Willard as well. “We really want to support our active and committed volunteers,” Willard said. “We are depending upon keeping our strong group of volunteers across all our programs fully engaged. This position, and the Recreation Department, will provide program and administrative support as well as
upgrading and maintaining our facilities and working cooperatively with other towns.”

We are also planning to create new programs for adults,” Willard continued. “We want to network with the already active Raymond Age Friendly group and Windham-Raymond Adult Education to get enhanced programming for adults and particularly older adults, as they are a large component of Raymond’s demographic.”

One of the first responsibilities for Raymond’s new Recreation Department is overseeing Tassel Top Park, which is owned by the State of Maine and operated under a long-term lease by the Town of Raymond. “We want to maintain the rustic woodsy aesthetic,” explained Willard, “while possibly creating a new children’s play area at Tassel Top Park. We’re going to expand the opportunities there without compromising the natural beauty.”

For Crocker, there is also a personal connection to Tassel Top Park. A resident of Windham, he and his family have held a seasonal pass to the beach for the past two years. “Tassel Top Park is a real hidden gem,” Crocker said. “My daughter is nine months old, and I’m excited for her to grow up near a beach like that.”

Willard acknowledges that starting a Recreation Department from ground zero is a big job, but he feels confident that Joseph Crocker is up for the task. “He’s got a lot of experience, and he’ll have a lot of input from other active and retired area recreation professionals” Willard said. “Not only does he have the proper qualifications, he has shown tremendous enthusiasm already. I think he is going to be great.”

Crocker echoes Willard’s optimism for Raymond’s new Recreation Department. “It’s very exciting for everybody,” Crocker told me. “As soon as I said yes to the job, I’ve been approached by multiple people reaching out and being excited about the position and the department. That’s definitely what you want when you take a job!”

Joseph Crocker will begin his position as the Director of Raymond’s new Recreation Department on February 18.

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