Just a little background on me before we get into the topic of what Maintenance Management School has meant to me and my career. I grew up in the construction field and once I got out of the engineering department of the United States Army, I began my professional career with a civil engineering company designing subdivisions and commercial site development. In 1995, I took a position with a construction company as a field superintendent looking over the construction of commercial sites/buildings. In 2001, after 9/11, the construction industry began to slow down drastically and that is what brought me to the parks and recreation world. In 2002, I was hired as the carpentry foreman for Gwinnett County, Georgia Parks and Recreation. In 2008, I was promoted to the Support Services Manager in charge of the day-to-day operation of Support Services. Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation has 44 active parks which includes thousands of miles of trails, multiple indoor/outdoor aquatic centers, senior centers, activity buildings, athletic fields and general all-purpose recreation areas.
In 2014, I was given the opportunity to attend the Parks and Recreation Maintenance Management School at Oglebay Resort and Conference Center in Wheeling, West Virginia. I had heard of the school from colleagues that work with me and was excited when I was informed that the training was approved (I had been trying to attend the training for several years, but we had a moratorium on out-of-state travel due to budget issues).
Here’s my experience:
Year One: I arrived at Oglebay on Sunday, January 26, 2014 to a balmy -8 degrees (coming from Georgia this was especially difficult for me due to the fact that we rarely get into the 20’s in the winter). What I immediately noticed was that even though the weather was harsh, the spirit of the students was very high. I saw several second year students reconnecting with their classmates from the previous year. That’s when I knew this wasn’t going to be the same ole training class, and boy, was I right. After orientation that night, meeting the regents, and finding out what was expected, I anxiously awaited the first day of classes on Monday. Over the next four days, I was instructed on planning, financial/time management, supervision, building restroom maintenance, change management, communications, legal liability, site security, lawn care, leadership, play area safety and maintenance, environmental ethics, motivation techniques, employee evaluations and parks innovation. I can honestly say it was a whirlwind of information and truly interesting to see how other agencies dealt with these various subjects. One of the MANY benefits of this training is the class discussion and networking you do with other students, regents and agencies. There really is a multitude of ways to handle various situations and having the experience of other parks and recreation professional’s opinions/advice is invaluable.
Year Two: The second year is centered around building on what you learned in the first year to help you become a well-rounded maintenance management supervisor. You will take more specific, maintenance focused classes that helps you develop an overall maintenance management plan for your park.
Oh, so you’re asking what a maintenance management plan is? It is a plan that covers every aspect of parks maintenance and the cost associated with it from personnel, supplies, equipment and any other thing needed to maintain the park in the way that is designated. You will spend 24 hours with your “team” discussing and developing a maintenance plan for a fictitious park. This is a focal point of the second year and a lesson that will serve you greatly once the class is over. We at Gwinnett County are in the process of developing our plan and I have pulled out my syllabus and notes on several occasions with the comment, “this is how we did it at MMS.” I can honestly say the second year flew by and before I knew it we were graduating on Thursday night. It was a bit sad, but the relationships that you build will last you a lifetime. I have contacted the regents on several occasions for advice and they are always willing to take time to help. I have also kept in contact with several classmates and we often bounce ideas off one another to see how our particular agencies are handling, or have handled a specific problem.
Summation: The bottom line is that you not only receive real world knowledge and techniques from the school, but you also get incredible resources that you can use in your day-to-day operation. We have implemented numerous preventative maintenance plans, wildlife management techniques and playground safety inspections. I can’t tell you strongly enough how taking this training has changed my management style and effects everything I do and every decision I make. The syllabus books are right next to my desk and I refer to them often, whether it is a specific issue or I just need general knowledge of a particular subject that we might not be currently implementing and are doing the research for future funding. More than anything else, the biggest resource you will receive is the numerous years of knowledge that will surround you in everything you do at MMS. DO NOT take this for granted because it is the one resource that will help you the most in your career in the parks and recreation world (especially if you are like me and didn’t start off there). I just wish I had this opportunity when I first started in 2002. I hope you have the opportunity to attend, and if you do, please take advantage of the wealth it has to offer. You and your career will be very thankful.
What have you gained from attending a school? Leave a comment below or tweet us @NRPA_News.
Editor’s Note: The NRPA Maintenance Management School is a comprehensive two-year professional development program designed to teach park and recreation professionals how to develop and manage a wide variety of maintenance programs. Learn more about Maintenance Management School, January 29 - February 3, 2017 at Oglebay Resort and Conference Center in Wheeling, West Virginia.
William (David) McGaughey is the Parks and Recreation Manager for Gwinnett County, Georgia.