Stephanie Payne was chosen as Petersburg’s new Parks and Recreation Director, Dec. 11. (Photo by Theresa Craig)

Petersburg Borough has a new Parks and Rec Director. The boroughmanager announced Friday afternoon that the new hire was Stephanie Payne, the department’s Facility Supervisor. The decision still has to be approved by the borough assembly. KFSK’s Angela Denning reports:

Stephanie Payne has been the Parks and Rec Facility Supervisor for the last year. She’s worked closely with Borough Manager, Steve Giesbrecht, who has been acting as the director since Chandra Thornburg resigned in March.

“Stephanie already has shown she can do the job in many ways,” said Giesbrecht.

Giesbrecht says he chose Payne, in part, because she has proven her leadership through rocky times that the Rec Center has experienced this year. There have been multiple closures for the pandemic and for equipment failures.

“Let’s face it, she’s weathered some pretty tough times,” Giesbrecht said. “Covid, a couple of instances where we’ve had some damage up there and she’s held the staff together and that’s a lot of what you have to do up there.”

The facility has close to a dozen employees during peak season. They include workers at the Community Center, student lifeguards, a few maintenance workers, a janitor, a landscaper and seasonal helper for the parks and borough grounds throughout town.

The department budget has been close to a million dollars in recent years.

Payne says working as facility supervisor in a time without a permanent director allowed her the opportunity to learn some of the administrative duties.

“I have really been immersed in the overall functions of the facility beyond what my job description was at the time. So, I’ve really gained such a love for our facility and the job itself,” said Payne.

Payne has a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree in Science. In her past, she managed teams of people in a laboratory and in the field. She’s also worked as Assistant Manager of a local building supplies company. She’s been in Petersburg since 2013.

She says she’s really excited to become the Parks and Rec Director.

“This facility has really become my baby in the last year and I take a ton of pride in ownership in the work that I do there and that my team does there,” Payne said.

The hiring process went pretty quick. The borough received a dozen applications, five of those answered written questions and then three finalists were eventually interviewed over Zoom. Some members of the Parks and Rec Advisory Board were part of that process. Giesbrecht made the final decision.

He says Payne is a good communicator and that’s a skill needed for the job. She needs to communicate not only with staff but with the school district. The building is shared by the borough and the school district. The schools get to use the facility during the days and the borough has it early in the morning and at night. Viking Swim Club also uses the facility every week day.

“Maybe one of the most important parts of the job is to work with the school and the other user groups and make sure that we can schedule folks in there on the limited time we have available,” said Giesbrecht.

Payne says her first goal will be to finalize contracts they’ve been working on with the borough’s attorney.

“We work very closely with the school but the contracts that we have seem to be kind of out of date and just getting everybody back on the same page,” said Payne. “Then we have our contracts with our fitness instructors and getting them all back in there and figuring out a way that we can do it with the restrictions that we have with the Department of Labor. That was a big one and kind of brought it all to a screeching halt. I’d really like to get that moving again, which again will be something more that we can offer. So, it’s just little contracts like that. Most people, honestly, aren’t even going to see a change, but making sure that everything is legitimate and done correctly is really what needs to happen.”

The borough will now need to fill Payne’s position as Facility Supervisor.