County commissioners have voted to shift parks and recreation from its ties with the solid waste department and appoint Nikki Millender its new director.
At their July 17 meeting, commissioners voted 3-2 to make the changes. Commissioners Smokey Parrish and Noah Lockley both voted no.
Millender has worked for the county for more then 10 years, most recently as community program coordinator for parks and recreation when the program was administered by the head of the county solid waste department.
Commissioner Cheryl Sanders proposed separating out the department and promoting Millender to oversee it. She opened the discussion by praising the work of county employees, and Millender in particular, on the Florida Dixie Softball Tournament held at Kendrick Park in Carrabelle earlier this month.
At Sanders’ request, Millender gave an oral report on the tournament at the commission meeting, in which she outlined the Debs state championship victory and their need for funds for the upcoming World Series. She also thanked the many volunteers, and said the county had been asked to host the World Series for the newly introduced X-play format.
“I just feel like we would be better off and better served if we had the parks and rec reporting to the board just like Nikki did,” Sanders said. “I think we need to separate her out and have her answer to the board directly.
“We don’t have a $50,000 budget for parks and recreation; we have a $400,000 budget,” she said, pointing out that the Coombs Armory, where Millender’s office is based, is now managed by parks and rec.
In her motion, Sanders requested a $2,500 increase in pay for Millender. She said funds for the pay hike would come from about $5,000 difference in the salaries paid to former Parks and Recreation director Van Johnson and Fonda Davis who succeeded him last month.
Commissioner Noah Lockley asked if the job would be open to other applicants. He also questioned whether the board still planned to hire an assistant for Davis.
Chairman Pinki Jackel said the board still needed a job description for the assistant’s post. She said she was not convinced an assistant director was needed.
“It’s budget time,” said Jackel. “We could save a lot of money and a position. We can look at doing something for those folks who have been there for a long time and upping their responsibility.”
“I’m going to be upfront with ya’ll,” said Sanders. “I don’t like the way it was done with Fonda's job position as solid waste director where we just willy-nilly did something to be able to put somebody in there.”
Davis was instructed to provide a job description for his assistant at the upcoming Aug. 1 county commission meeting. Lockley said the board had no job description for the position proposed for Millender, but Jackel and Sanders disagreed.
“Yes we do,” Sanders said. “She’s doing it.”
Sanders said Millender will supervise four fulltime employees in her new position. Two of these employees are funded through the Tourist Development Council, and they clean the bathrooms, park areas and county beaches on St. George Island, Carrabelle and Alligator Point. The other two maintain the county football and baseball fields.
“What if one of them wanted to apply for it?” asked Lockley.
Sanders stressed that the commissioners had the prerogative to make personnel decisions for the various departments that they directly oversee. “I don’t want to hear any more ‘yeyanging’ about anybody raised up and not raised up,” she said.
Millender worked for the county first at the landfill and later for parks and recreation. A notary public, she has completed several FEMA emergency management courses, and supervisory training at Florida State University.