Editors note: This is part of an ongoing series of conversations with city and county officials, beginning in Carter County before branching out into greater Southern Oklahoma. This week features Parks and Recreation Assistant Director and, as of today, former Executive Director of the HFV Wilson Community Center Alicia Henry.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge while being both the Assistant Parks and Recreation Director and the Executive Director of the HFV Wilson Community Center?

A: “So, basically the hardest part is going to a new position and learning everything I need to know about that position and helping the director, but also still trying to make sure that I’m keeping up with everything at the Center. I’m stopping in often enough. I’m between two offices, so making sure I have what I need at one office when I’m working out of the other one and may need stuff at that office as well. So that’s probably the most challenging, just balancing the two. But, it’s been really successful. I’ve been able to keep a good balance. I’m usually at the center for a couple of days a week and I’m at the Parks and Recreation Office three days a week, and then some days I’m at both going between the two. It’s been okay, but it has been tough.”

Q: Do you have a successor yet at the center?

A: “I do and I think it is actually official. He is starting on Monday (today). His name is Jacob Lohse, and he’s from Texas.”

Q: What has been your proudest accomplishment in working for the community center?

A: “Really, and there is so much that goes into the center, my proudest accomplishment is probably the Color Me Crazy run. Because when I started that in 2013 there was no other color run in the city of Ardmore. So, I was expecting maybe 50 people. I mean that was kind of my goal, to have 50 people that come to the Color Me Crazy run and that would be successful. And there was 747 people that came. So, I was just blown away. Then to have it for the next five years, it’s just incredible. This year will be our sixth year, so I never expected it to be such a huge community staple. That really says a lot about the center and the fundraising we do for the center. So that’s probably my proudest accomplishment.”

Q: What do you hope to bring to your new job at Parks and Recreation?

A: “I would really like to bring my recreational side of things. I have a very deep history in health and wellness, and recreational programming.That’s kinda my passion, so I hope to bring new ideas to the department that we have not done in a very long time. I have some fun projects planned, and a lot of good ideas that aren’t official yet because we’re still pricing them and things like that. But I have a lot of fun ideas that are very unique, that I would like to see the Ardmore community be able to have that experience. To my knowledge these things we’re looking into haven’t been things we have ever done here yet. I want to focus on recreational things that will bring light into the community.”

Q: So how are some of your new ideas different than what has been done by Parks and Recreation in the past?

A: “So, in the past, we did a canine cool down. It was at the pool, and it was the very last day of the season so no humans would be swimming after the dogs. It was the last day before we drained the pool, and it was a fun little thing for dogs and their owners. So they jumped in the pool, and we had little treats for them and things like that. I wasn’t a part of that, that was before me, but I’m looking through files as I get into my new office and thinking that was awesome! So, kind of recreating that program to make it good for the current year. So that’s something I would really like to see brought back. So it’s not even necessarily that I’m bringing brand new things, it’s that I’m looking at what was successful throughout the years and bringing new aspects to them. But there are some things (that I can’t announce yet) that will be completely brand new. I look nationwide at what’s trending, so I can bring trending things to Ardmore. So for instance, pickle ball has been around forever. Well it’s trending again, and we don’t have a pickle ball program right now. So, I’m looking into bringing pickle ball here possibly, or bocce ball. It’s a lot of research on my part to just look at what is trending throughout the nation, would it be successful in the Ardmore community, and what have they done in the past that I can revamp to make it successful.”

Q: What do you think is the greatest need the HFV Wilson Community Center fills in the community versus the Parks and Recreation Department?

A: “With the community center I think it’s with our summer camps and after school programming. I think there is a gap between when school gets out and when parents get home from work. So, I think our after school programs definitely serve a need in the community and that’s something we always look into how to expand on. We pick up the kids from Ardmore schools and from Plainview, but that’s a huge need that the center fills for the community. Also our summer camp, as a parent I understand that problem but there is a big issue in the summer because parents still have to work and their kids are out of school, so where do you take them? So I think just providing child care after school is a huge need in the community. For Ardmore Parks and Recreation, I think, a lot of the community wants fun, safe family activities like the Clubhouse. When we posted that on Facebook it exploded, it was the closest post to going viral that I’ve ever posted. The post reached like 55,000 and had around 300 shares I think, so it’s obvious that, that is a huge need of the community for Parks and Rec. That’s a huge project we’re working on, but as a department we’re going to have to consider more projects like that. Urban Air isn’t us, but that is meeting a need in the community because people want fun things for them to do with their children.”

Q: If you could describe your job in three words what would they be?

A: “Fun, exciting and rewarding.”