Member Spotlight: Patricia Armstrong

September 1, 2015, Department, by Sonia Myrick

NRPA 2015 Annual Conference Program Committee Chair, Patricia Armstrong, offers some insight as to what was top of mind for the Committee as it selected the best, most relevant session topics.A few years ago, we shone the spotlight on Patricia Armstrong who has been a dedicated NRPA volunteer and served on several NRPA committees since joining the association more than 20 years ago. She has been the director of parks, recreation, beaches and cemeteries for the town of Yarmouth since the mid-1980s and is currently the chair of the 2015 NRPA Annual Conference Program Committee. Here, we learn a bit more about her path to the field of parks and recreation and what was top of mind for the Program Committee as it put together the educational offerings for this year’s Conference.

Parks & Recreation magazine: How did you get your start in the industry?

Patricia Armstrong: I was a YMCA major at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts, studying physical education and fitness, and my roommate was a parks and recreation specialist. I watched as she did all these really exciting and fun things as part of her studies. I started my career at the Y, but after a few years, I was disheartened. One day, that college roommate called and said, “There’s this great job in the next town,” which was Yarmouth. “I think you’d like it…come on down,” and I applied and I got my first job in the industry as the director of recreation. That was back in 1986. Over time, my responsibilities grew to include parks, beaches and cemeteries.

P&R: What do your day-to-day responsibilities entail?

Armstrong: I oversee the day-to-day operations for a staff of 15 and a seasonal staff of about 160. I have managers that oversee a lot of the details, but I’m there to support decisions and to oversee the larger projects and budgeting challenges.

P&R: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Armstrong: I would say securing funding both privately and through the tax base to make major infrastructure changes that impact the lives of many of the members of our community.

P&R: How did you get involved with the Program Committee?

Armstrong: When I went to my first Congress back in Phoenix, I knew a couple of the members of the Program Committee and I watched them be so excited not only about Congress, but also about what they were learning and what they were being exposed to. They talked about the evaluation of proposals for presentations and how they were exposed to the cutting-edge ideas and programs happening across the country, and I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to be able to be involved with that and to bring some of that knowledge back home. I was lucky enough after a few years to be appointed by the then-Administrators Network to be a representative on the Program Committee, and it has been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had with NRPA.

P&R: As the chair of the Program Committee, what’s the one thing you’d like Conference attendees to know was a top priority for the committee as it was putting together the educational offerings?

Armstrong: Obviously, the diversity of interest and the community sizes was taken into consideration. So many of the speakers are applicable not only to large, urban centers, but also to small, rural communities. Across the board, we were trying to bring technology and new trends into the program presentations so that people could use their phones instead of having to turn them off, could bring their tablets and take notes and start communicating and establishing relationships through those technologies with others at the Conference. We worked hard to not only do traditional sessions, but also to include these small, short sessions — Speed Sessions — that we feel really bring a new aspect of excitement the conference.

P&R: What’s your favorite park and recreation activity and why?

Armstrong: I enjoy most water activities, from swimming and kayaking, to shell fishing and boating. Cape Cod has some of the most beautiful beaches, both oceanfront and freshwater, anywhere in the United States. My golden retriever Duke often joins me for a boat ride and a swim. 

Sonia Myrick is the Managing Editor of Parks & Recreation magazine.