Rick Maynard: Calling It a Career
For more than 32 years, Guilford has been graced with one of the hardest-working, most passionate town employees ever to work for the town. Parks and Recreation Director Rick Maynard is winding down his tenure after 45 years in recreation, having spent more than three decades of that working tirelessly for Guilford
Rick hails from East Hartford, and after his college years at Springfield College, which was the premiere institution for physical education and recreation during his education, Rick earned his degree in community and outdoor recreation.
“When I said I was going into recreation, people said, ‘What are you going to do after the summer?’ They thought recreation was being a playground director or something. It’s a little more complicated than that,” says Rick.
Rick thought he had landed his dream job not long after graduating when his hometown hired him as its Parks and Recreation Director. However, East Hartford’s form of town government meant a complete sweeping of department heads every two years after an election, and the uncertainty of his employment just became too tied to politics. Despite some trepidation in leaving what he had hoped was a permanent position, Rick says he began seeking a more steady directorship.
“That was a dream come true coming back to my hometown and being the director, but the dream kind of became a nightmare. In East Hartford at that time, it was just a really poor system. When the mayor’s term ends, all department heads end, too, unless they were reappointed. It is a really terrible system; it had nothing to do with whether you did a good job or not; it was all politics. So, I really wanted to find a position where I didn’t have to worry about losing my job every two years,” says Rick.
East Hartford’s loss was Guilford’s gain. Rick was offered the job and jumped at the chance to become the town’s new Park and Recreation Director in July of 1991.
To list the programs and tasks that Rick oversees is truly comprehensive. Whether it’s the food programs, the kitchen and Community Center, the two beaches that require constant upkeep and maintenance, the more than 40 playing fields, checking the safety of Mill Pond ice, the skate park, the pickleball courts, and also the coordination of the Senior Center, Rick is somehow able to delegate and manage it all.
“Here we look at it like, is it a problem or a challenge? We like to look at things as a challenge that we have to find a solution to,” says Rick.
One of the biggest challenges that Rick tirelessly works at is simply keeping all of the various concerns of residents attended to.
“Meeting all the needs of our residents and keeping people happy is my main focus. I tell people I am like the conductor of an orchestra; we all have a part to play, and my part is to create the harmony that keeps it together. I’m not sure I’m always successful at that, but you have to try,” says Rick. “It’s how you deal with people; it’s public relations. I want everybody who walks out of here or who gets off the phone with us to think, ‘Wow, I’m really glad I talked to them.’”
Rick is quick to emphasize that his department only works because of the dedicated staff he trusts to keep the ship afloat.
“[Recreation Supervisor] Ellen [Clow], [Senior Supervisor] Terry [Buckley], [Program Director] Taryn [Erb], [Parks Supervisor] Tony [Annicelli], [Building Maintenance Supervisor] Todd [Rake], [Kitchen Director] Larry [Santamaria], Jenn Knight, my Administrative Assistant. We have a great staff that has allowed me to focus on park and facility improvements because of the excellent job they do in their specific areas. There is just an incredible team effort here. All the credit for our department’s successes are really due to the park and recreation staff. I can’t say enough about the job they do and how dedicated they are,” says Rick. “The staff team that I have been able to develop has done so much to meet the recreational and facility needs of the community. That team has allowed me to work and focus on facility, park, and field improvements.”
Rick’s efforts have brought innumerable changes and amenities to Guilford’s parks and beaches. He also faced challenges like the pandemic disruption that almost completely shut down his department.
“COVID was absolutely a challenge. We were essentially shut down just like everyone else,” says Rick. “But we adapted because we felt we couldn’t just shut down. We adapted and still kept things going as much as we could for the community because they really needed it. They really needed something, especially the seniors. They were the most vulnerable and...they were also the folks who needed the most help. We kept things going for them, whether it was Meals on Wheels, the drive-through meals, the shopping, or getting set up for vaccines. We have a great department, and especially being faced with something we had never dealt with before. We changed gears. We had to; you just figure it out and make it work. That’s what COVID made us do, and I think the team did it marvelously. I think we opened up before any other community because we made the effort to do it and do it safely.”
One of Rick’s many accomplishments is the disc golf course at Bittner Park, which he is quick to point out that he had nothing to do with naming the course after him.
“I’m not even dead yet; why name it after me?” Rick says.
The course has become so central to the professional disc golf schedule that tournament slots fill up within minutes of being announced.
As is his style, Rick gives credit to others for the success of the course, which he has overseen the enhancement and improvement of since its inception via feedback from players, both pro and recreational.
“I would say my one of proudest accomplishments is the disc golf course, and not because it’s named after me. I had nothing to do with that naming, so it’s a bit awkward. But we got the course done in nine months, and we did that working together. We had Boy Scout groups who helped out. Todd helped out a lot on that project. We have 12 different Eagle Scout projects out there. Public Works was great and did a lot of work. We had volunteers from the Coast Guard who came out and did volunteer work on the tees,” says Rick. “We really worked together on that project, and the whole department should be proud. There was so much volunteer help on that course.”
When asked what he’ll miss about the job, he gives the same answer for why he loves his position so much.
“I’ll miss the people and interacting with everyone. I will miss the relationships. This is a truly fantastic department, and I’m sure it will continue to be run that way, no matter who comes in after me,” Rick says.
According to Rick, he doesn’t see himself going anywhere soon. He hopes to join the town’s Standing Field Committee as a member. He has also told town officials he will volunteer to stay on until the town makes a decision on his replacement.
“There were times when I thought to myself, ‘I can’t wait to retire,’ but in looking back, I’m at a point where I’m thinking, ‘This is really good, and maybe I don’t want to retire.’” says Rick with a laugh. “But I think it is a good time for me to go. But it’s not like I’m looking forward to leaving and counting down the days, that’s for sure. I’m not. But I’m going to stay involved and do some volunteer work; probably help with lunches for the seniors. I’m certainly not going to ride off into the sunset and never show up again. I still want to remain active with this department and with the community in some way.”
Rick and his wife Terri have lived in Guilford since shortly after he took the job, and he says they have no plans to leave other than to visit their children and grandchildren.