The very serious business of running a comprehensive park and recreation program in a town — which, back in the day, numbered nearly 40,000 residents — required not only a variety of skill sets, but a sense of humor. At times it was adjudicating those demanding pool access with radios, food or wearing jeans and a T. It was not so humorous when I received calls in the wee hours from security. One such call advised me vandals had tossed a 55-gallon barrel of chlorine into the pool at Sehr Park. How in the world was that possible and how in the world were we going to get it out before swim lessons at 9 a.m.? Under the “misery loves company” adage, I felt a tad better when I learned just down the road that same night vandals drove a car into Schiller Pool in Syracuse.
Communication also required a sense of humor. The parks department was one cut above sending smoke signals, albeit perhaps faster. Our only communication was via two-way truck radio to the highway department. They, in turn, sent messages to the tax department next door to my office at town hall. We would reverse the process, the result of which was yours truly heading across town to examine the problem in question. What I would have given for today’s technology; moreover, such a waste of taxpayer money in down time.
Another sense of humor story (there are many): It was a multi-step process beginning with interviews in January with prospective candidates to town board approval in May. Unlike a school district or private enterprise, the mountain of paperwork necessary was an annual event. Once done, it was forwarded to civil service downtown for certification. I remember the call that all candidates had been rejected! Say what?! Contrary to the aphorism, “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine,” indeed, it absolutely was an emergency on my part. Civil service changed the rules in mid-stream, but did not inform us before the fact. All 14 titles and job descriptions for 100 employees had to be rewritten. I’m sure the reader has heard tell about taking work home and burning the midnight oil; I ran out of oil! I happily report all were paid in a timely fashion and never the wiser how close they came to not receiving that first paycheck.
I’ll never be able to thank those part-timers enough. Most were working at minimum wage with no bennies, sharing their skills, creativity and elbow grease for the good of the cause from tiny tots to seniors. The playground director who constructed a four-lane cardboard runway at the bottle cap carnival. Kids could place bets on any one of the white mice. Lots of screaming when the race was off and running, but on this occasion not from fright! In another booth kids had to shave a balloon without breaking it; yes, shaving cream does scatter in all directions when you hear the POP! Those same kids from days gone by excited about the carnivals, pony rides, track meets and free sodas are now taking their grandkids to the same parks and pools.
If one’s success is measured by what others say, I am indeed humbled:
“Major Kate Vaughn and Staff Sgt. James Hockey have passed on wonderful feedback about your involvement (Burnham Park). Your participation in the Galaxy rocket program was a major factor in the success of the program and the positive attitude and personality of your staff made it a pleasure to work with you.” — Colonel Robert A. Knauff, New York State Air National Guard.
“Jim Wemesfelder recently put forward a proposal to have sheriff’s deputies patrol our town parks. Without the joint effort of (Jim) and Captain Paul Carlson, the partnership between the county and town would not have reached this level…it was wonderful to see two individuals work together for a common good.” — James Keib, Town Councilor
“Wemesfelder instituted programs…second to none in New York state including the Learn-To-Swim program as well as adult and senior recreation programs.” — Dave Stott, Salina Town Board
“July 1, 2007, and every July 1 thereafter will be designated James Wemesfelder Day in the Town of Salina. The board unanimously approved the motion. The board also moved to rename Electronics Park ‘James Wemesfelder Park.’” Sarah Hall, Star-Review
I was indeed fortunate to have served nine town supervisors and nearly 20 councilmen on both sides of the aisle. The department is in good hands, the town board continues its exceptional support and under the leadership of Supervisor Mark Nicotra, a bright future awaits many a generation to come.
The wonderful ride began 50 years ago on a little piece of land thick with willows and old rusted washing machines. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Feb 17, 2019
Feb 17, 2019
Feb 17, 2019