PITTSFORD — The town’s new recreation director will spend some of his time doing economic development work.
Nelson Brown, of Waitsfield, will assume the role of recreation director Dec. 15. He takes over for Randy Adams, who served the town for 20 years before stepping down in June.
Brown said Thursday he was born in Vermont but moved to Keene, New Hampshire, when he was 6, going on to attend the University of New Hampshire where he initially sought a business degree. A class in recreation, plus his natural love of the outdoors, spurred him to switch disciplines to recreation management with a minor in business.
He graduated in 2014. That summer he took on an internship in Sun Valley, Idaho, working in the recreation department and helping it with marketing and programming for teenagers. He returned to Keene where he worked part-time in the recreation department before getting a full-time gig in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire.
Kayaking and skiing are Brown’s preferred outdoor activities. Last summer, he and his partner moved to Seward, Alaska, to spend the season working as a sea-kayaking guide. He and his partner worked at the same shop together, and Brown took people out in the Kenai Fjords National Park on the Kenai peninsula.
“Our plan was to always move back east,” he said. “I never studied abroad or anything, so I wanted to get out of New England for a summer and experience something new.”
He came back to Vermont in December and went to work for True North Wilderness Program doing operations and logistics until the COVID-19 pandemic brought that to an end.
“I knew I wanted to get back into municipal recreation, that’s what my wheelhouse is with adult programming,” he said.
Finding work in a pandemic isn’t easy, he said, however his parameters were somewhat tight, wanting work in Vermont and in municipal recreation. He learned of the Pittsford job through his contacts.
“I’m definitely a person who is community centered, community based, and I found great success with that in Waterville,” he said. “The way I was doing that was by trying to offer more adult programming.”
He said many town recreation programs focus on children and could use more teen and adult oriented programming.
Brown said he’s had a tour of the town’s recreational facilities and is impressed by what his predecessor, Adams, has built.
“Randy has been great,” said Brown, adding that he’s been getting advice and training from the former recreation director. “Obviously, he leaves big shoes to fill. He was a huge part of the community and still is. I want to keep that going and honor him on the way.”
Brown said his biggest challenge initially will be introducing himself to the community during a pandemic, but his experience with social media, photography, marketing and storytelling will come in handy there, as well as with his economic development duties.
Town Manager John Haverstock said Thursday that there were 12 applications the town considered for the position, all of them strong, but Brown was the only one with direct experience in the role.
“We ended up thinking Nelson’s enthusiasm and his demonstrated skill set and experience, together with his passion for building community and his interest in both photography and social media made him a very good fit for what we’re looking for in terms of spreading the word better about all the wonderful recreation opportunities Pittsford has to offer,” said Haverstock.
He said the theory behind having Brown work on economic development was in part because of the pandemic, the thinking being it might leave Brown with some spare time on his hands, at least in the winter months. Also, the town was thinking of Bill Moore, recreation director and economic development director for the town of Brandon, whose work in both arenas has been impressive. According to Haverstock, Moore even helped Pittsford search for a new recreation director and conduct interviews.
“The clear priority is recreation, but if (Brown) has additional time, we’d like him to think about helping the businesses already in Pittsford and helping develop ways to encourage other businesses to come to town,” said Haverstock.