October 9, 2003
For Village parks director, work was more than a job
The parks and recreation director for the Village does not spend much time behind a desk. Instead, he’s out in the field, mowing, cleaning, running programs.
Just ask Terry Cox. “With a town this size, you can’t have the luxury of a parks and recreation director sitting in the office,” he said.
In a way, a parks director’s office is the outdoors. “I’ve mowed lots of grass and dug a lot of diamonds, ball fields,” he said in an interview last Friday at the Bryan Community Center. “I spent a lot of time cleaning and getting the swimming pool ready every year.”
At the end of September, Cox parked his mower and put away his tools for the last time, retiring as the Village parks director.
After 27 years with the Village, Cox said that it was time to retire and that it was becoming more difficult for him to do the physical aspects of his job. With two artificial knees and a pacemaker, the 57-year-old said that he’s “not able to go out and work hard for eight hours outdoors.”
Greg Jones, who worked with Cox, is currently running the parks department.
Village Manager Rob Hillard said that he is evaluating the parks director position and “how it affects the overall mission” of the Village. Although he has “lots of thoughts and ideas” on the post, Hillard said on Monday that he had “nothing specific to discuss.”
Right now, Hillard said, he is focused on the search for a new Yellow Springs police chief, and once that’s complete, he will “look at the other position harder.”
For Cox, serving as Village parks director was more than a job. His family has deep ties in the Village and public service. He met his wife, Joretta, when they both worked in the Parks and Recreation Department. Joretta’s father, Bobby Hamilton, worked on the Village electric crew for 45 years — back when, as Cox said, you had to climb poles and dig holes by hand. Cox said that his three children were raised in the Bryan Center because “I was here so much.”
Cox said that he was lucky that Joretta and their children were patient and understanding every time he had to respond to problems on the weekends. Even after Joretta Cox left her job with the Village, her husband said, she continued to put in a lot of hours helping.
Cox, who grew up in Miamisburg, has spent most of his adult life working in the recreational field. After earning a degree in education and recreation from Moorhead State University, Cox got a job as the recreation athletic director for the city of Council Bluffs in southwestern Iowa. He spent four years in Council Bluffs, then left to pursue a master’s at West Chester State University near Philadelphia. Though he completed his coursework, Cox left West Chester before finishing his thesis because he “needed to work,” and moved back to the Miami Valley to work with his uncle.
Cox said he has no real regrets about not earning his master’s. “My family was raised here, I met my wife here,” he said. “Those things outweigh that.”
Then in 1976 Cox joined the Village as the full-time youth director. A year later, his supervisor left and Cox was promoted to parks director. The Village, however, had a budget crunch, and the parks department lost about three or four staff members, Cox said. Since then, Cox said, he’s mostly worked with a staff of one full-time maintenance worker plus part-time monitors who work at the Bryan Center. The Village also employs seasonal help in the parks department.
When Cox started, the Village’s administrative offices were in the old Village Building, which today is the Union School House, and the parks department operated in the basement of the old Bryan High School, which Cox described as a dungeon, with visible pipes running along the low ceilings and a buckled gym floor. “You’d have high spots here and low spots there,” he said of the gym.
Much has changed in the Village parks system since Cox first started with the organization. The Village has put in a new pool, expanded Gaunt Park, added the bikepath, built the Skate Park and remodeled the Bryan Center to accommodate the Village offices and Police Department.
Cox also spent a lot of effort trying to improve Ellis Pond, which, Cox said, needs to be dug deeper and whose leaky dam needs to be replaced. The Village tried several times to drain the pond so it could be dug deeper, but every time the pond was emptied, it would rain, Cox said, hindering the Village’s ability to dig the pond out. “We could never get it dry,” he said.
“It’s given us some problems, but when we started there was nothing out there,” he said.
Over the years, Cox had only a few people working for him, including Charles Mundy, Kent Harding, who now works on the Village public works crew, and Greg Jones.
Now that he’s retired, Cox plans to “take it easy, relax” and fish, golf and work around the house. Cox wants to spend time with his three grandchildren. Terry and Joretta Cox, who does contract work for The Antioch Company, have three children, Joseph, Tara and Arianne, and three grandchildren. “We love to travel so if we want to just hop in the car and go to Colorado up in the mountains or to the East Coast, we can just go,” he said.
Cox also hopes to get involved in volunteer work in the community and “give back the time people gave us.”
After more than a quarter-century with the Village, Cox said that he will miss the people but not the headaches. He described his job as both depressing and rewarding. The years have been frustrating, Cox said, since he had just one full-time staff member currently, it’s Greg Jones working with him. “We’re expected to make everything look like we have a staff of five or six,” Cox said.
Nevertheless, Cox is also proud of his accomplishments, saying the “good outweighs the bad.”
“I’ve taken a lot of pride in a lot of the things we’ve done around here,” Cox said, adding, “If I wanted to spend this many years in one job, this is it.”