Petersburg has hired a new director for its Parks and Recreation department. Two out-of-town applicants for the job got a chance to tour local recreation facilities and meet the public Tuesday. An aquatics center supervisor who works in Lynnwood, Washington has been chosen for the post.

The borough had 26 applicants for the top job in Petersburg Parks and Recreation department and interviewed seven of those candidates. From those, two were brought to town for in-person interviews this week.

35-year-old Chandra Thornburg is from Seattle and works for the city of Lynnwood, Washington. She has worked in recreation for the past 18 years and said she loves that field.

“It’s where I’m happy,” Thornburg said. “I’ve tried working in other places, I was an IT assistant at one point, I was a nanny at another point. I did a little bit of exploring in my early 20s and recreation is really my love. I love creating a place where community involvement can happen. I love creating a fun happy environment that’s safe for everybody to enjoy themselves.”

Chandra Thornburg

Chandra Thornburg

Thornburg said the people she met in Petersburg get her excited about the job. “Everybody is really enticed about the community and everybody’s so nice,” she said. “Everybody I’ve met is amazing. I’m an aquatics person; I’ve been working in aquatics for 18 years, so that entices me for it being such a small town, it’s really intriguing to me that the community has gotten together and funded this big of an aquatics center. That’s connected to a community center, so there’s a place for everybody here.”

Thornburg works in an aquatics center in Lynnwood that has 100 staffers. She’s one of nine supervisors there. “It’s a different scale, a different environment but I feel like management between aquatics and recreation is somewhat similar, creating an environment that has an open communication policy that is consistent and fair to everybody involved is kind of what my management style is.”
This week’s visit was Thornburg’s first trip to Alaska but she said she was excited about the opportunity.

Manager Steve Giesbrecht said the borough offered the job to Thornburg Wednesday and she accepted. They have not decided on an official starting date. Both candidates met with the public Tuesday night in the lobby of the community pool.

The other applicant flown to town for an interview was 44-year-old Melanie McElroy. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia. She said she and her family spend a month every year at their cabin near Admiralty Island’s Funter Bay outside of Juneau.

“It gets harder and harder to leave every year when we come up and whenever this opportunity presented itself I just kinda dreamt it in and thought about the fact that it would be really neat to live where we love to vacation and where we love to go and where we have really quality family time,” McElroy said.

Melanie McElroy

Melanie McElroy

McElroy said she applied for the Petersburg job because of the quality of life here. She works as director of program development for a karate school in Atlanta.

Outgoing parks and rec director Donnie Hayes leaves in early June after five years on the job. He was recognized by the borough assembly this week for his work in Petersburg and the borough plans a going away party for him on June 3rd from noon to 3 at the community gym.