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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Parks & Rec Transfer Stuns Riverview Community

The V.O. Dobbins Sr. Complex will be transitioning into its new role as the area's non-profit center, recreation hub and Douglass-Riverview centerpiece... without one of the community's adopted sons.

Kingsport Parks and Recreation Program Coordinator and V.O. Dobbins Sr. Complex building manager Mark Kilgore has been transferred to another post within the Parks and Rec Department. He was moved into a municipal position with the Bays Mountain Nature Preserve and Planetarium.

"I cannot talk about the transfer," said Chris McCartt, Assistant to the Kingsport City Manager. "Our city personnel policy is a long-standing policy that we do not discuss external or internal actions involving personnel. I cannot discuss (the transfer) and neither can our Human Resources Department."

Mr. Kilgore was a popular and well-respected person in the Riverview neighborhood, and the move shocked members of the community who relied on him for assistance and considered him a liason with the city in administering programs for residents.

"Oh I was just tore up," says New Vision Youth Kids Director Johnnie Mae Swaggerty, who worked with Kilgore on a regular basis. "Mark has been a pillar in our community. He helps us with the kids and the seniors. He worked overtime, even coming over on Saturdays and Sundays to help us with projects and special things going on in the neighborhood."

"He was always there, he was part of us," she says. "He just went over, above and beyond helping the community. He got us buses quickly whenever we had to take the kids or the seniors to places. He would set up Halloween activities, he would get door prizes and gifts. Mark and Moose (Henry) were always there, but it was Mark that saw to it that we had what we needed, with Moose's help, too. And Mark was always honest with everybody.. if he couldn't get what you needed, he explained why and we could understand it."

"We wish the city could tell us why he was transferred," says Johnnie Mae. "The community wants to know why."

"To be honest with you, I knew that Mark was well respected in the community," Mr. McCartt says. "That's something tht I have known for a long time, and I wasn't surprised to have folks call in and comment on how much they appreciated the work that he had done (in the Riverview community)."

"The one thing we want to assure the community about, is that programs and partnerships between various groups that were established with the city, will remain in place," he says. "We've got to get that message out, that the things we did in the past, will continue. The programs that made up the heart and soul of the community will continue. There's no reason why they can't, because they make the neighborhood such a wonderful place to be. With the new (V.O. Dobbins Sr. Complex), we've got a new gym, a new community room, we've got programming that we didn't have before. We're going to bring in those things that are now available to us, that we know the community wants us to have."

Johnnie Mae says, all of that comes with a certain amount of trust, and Kilgore earned that trust over the years. "He was always there, he did things with us, we trusted him and could lean on him for support. That trust is hard to find nowadays."

Can the city rebuild that trust in a new Parks and Rec program coordinator and V.O Dobbins Complex manager?

"Well I hope so," Mr. McCartt says. "That's the path I'm taking and that's the path that I'm directing my staff to take. It starts with the interview process. We'll advertise the job, and one of the main things I want to do is make sure that a representative of the community is involved in the interview procress. They are a stakeholder, just like anybody else is, who lives, who works where ever there is a stakeholder at the table. We want to make sure that stakeholders have a voice.. it is the group decision that will make a difference in continuing the programs and partnerships that are there."

"Sometimes we have to make tough decisions, and sometimes those decisions are not always popular, but we try to make decisions that are in the best interests of the community, the organization and the city."

But Johnnie Mae says, the decision to transfer Kilgore, will hurt for a long time.

"We probably will never understand," she says. "But we want Mark to know that we all love him, we support him, and he has always been, and will always be our friend and welcome in the Riverview community."