Mr. Fox Pond retiring after 30 years with city

Apr. 04, 2014 @ 06:07 PM

His staff hates to see him go.

“Mr. Fox Pond,” otherwise known as Henderson’s Recreation and Parks Director Alan Gill, stirred everyone with his announcement of retirement effective May 30.

“It was a shock when he told us,” said Recreation and Parks Athletic Director Steve Osborne, who has worked with Gill since 1989. “Working with Alan Gill has been a pleasure. If it wasn’t for working with him, I probably wouldn’t have been here as long. I am not looking forward to working with someone new.”

Department staff will miss Gill because of his mild-mannered and confident leadership skills.

“The thing that I liked about him was that he had confidence in his staff,” said Henderson and Vance Youth Services Director Donna Stearns. “He let us do our job. Sometimes we made mistakes, but he helped us through them. That is what made him a good boss.”

Gill expressed gratitude for his staff, most of whom have followed him through his career in the city’s recreation department.

“I’ve been lucky because I haven’t had a lot of turnover, especially since some of the political things that happened,” he said.

As the recreation department prepares for new leadership, Gill is working with his staff to complete his final projects.

Gill is working on the Comprehensive System-Wide Master Plan, a long-range planning guide for the department for programs and facilities.

Additionally, he is pushing for the city’s involvement in the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Community Fishing Program. Participation in the program will fund Fox Pond Park installation of automated fish feeders and a floating fishing pier system and provide monthly stockings for catfish.

Gill’s position is one of many of the city job openings to fill in the next coming months. Gill said it is important for his successor to have certain qualities that will carry out his legacy.

“I want someone that has the best interest of the kids at heart, especially ones not as privileged as others,” he said. “We have had budget cuts that has made it hard to keep things going. Maybe the next person will have better luck on the funding side of things.”

Gill is a Henderson native that has been dedicated to the success of not only the recreation department, but also the community as whole.

“I had a couple of chances to leave, but I just chose not to,” he said. “I think I have been more effective here staying involved rather than moving.”

After graduating from Western University, Gill returned home in 1983 to began his work with the city as a program specialist. He was promoted to assistant parks and recreation director in November 1986 and to director in 1998.

Under his leadership, Henderson seen two ball fields added in 1998 and Aycock Recreation Center planned and completed in 2002.

Over the years, Gill oversaw projects that funded the recreation center’s successful youth programs and athletics.

“When I first came here, we only had a girls softball league that comprised of all different kinds of ages,” he said. “Seeing that go from a few girls playing to having girls go to state championships and have a 16 and under team win the Babe Ruth World Series is a major accomplishment.”

Gill received the nickname Mr. Fox Pond after overseeing the building of Fox Pond Park.

“People would come and we would show them where the park is, and they would say ‘No, we want to see Mr. Fox Pond,’ ” Stearns said.

Many in the community hope Gill’s successor will be a native, as well.

“He has been in recreation over 30 years,” said former Henderson-Vance Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman George Watkins, who has worked with Gill since his start with the city. “I hope that we find someone local. We have a lot of qualified people here.

“I wish him well in his retirement but I must emphasize I hate to see him go.”

With all his accomplishments, Gill hopes to have a peaceful, but active, retirement.

Gill plans to stay active on the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council and continue serving as a chief judge. He has committed to staying active with the Henderson Optimist Club where he serves on the board of directors, also.

“I have no plans right now,” he said. “I want to go to the beach. I want to do some things around the house. It won’t be anything stressful or time consuming.”

 

Contact the writer at dhairston@hendersondispatch.com.