New P&R Director Lays Out Goals

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De Palma Unplugged

“One of the things I found most attractive about this job during the interview process was how involved and how much passion people of Fort Myers Beach feel about our community,” said Sean De Palma, the Town’s new Parks & Recreation Director at his first meeting with the Friends of the Bay Oaks Recreation Center & Pool (FoBORC) on Tuesday, February 7. “I hope we exploit this into vigorous volunteerism, and I use ‘exploit’ in the most positive way!”

His early focus is to “reorganize Parks & Recreation by establishing professional standards that make us more open and available to all community groups, but especially to this group. We must set these so we can make and be held accountable to our goals, but we begin this at the infant stage, as our department does not even have a personnel manual. This is important because it defines how we communicate and best serve our patrons. This is a fast pace for our current staff, but I run at a very high pace and my coworkers are getting used to that.”

Sean then discussed topics previously summited by FoBORC members:

Dollars & Sense

Concerning the upcoming budget process, De Palma acknowledged that his recent hiring allows him only a short time to prepare, “but we have already initiated our discussions in-house. We will go forward decisively, with deadlines to properly execute the process to get this right and sound, because I have to have pride in our proposals to advocate it before Council.”

Under sponsorships, Sean said that “we must make Parks & Recreation more marketable, to become more attractive to corporations to want to partner with us, but first we have to situate ourselves in that market and figure out how to do that. We need to promote an attractive product and, to be honest, I don’t know what that product is right now, but we must present a unified message to produce a unified brand, then our brand will get traction. What we have working for us is ‘location, location, location,’ with a little traffic issue right now, but we have to prove to the public that we enrich their lives and bring them value; once we do that, sponsorships take care of themselves.”

Sean asked FoBORC to assist the department with public relations, especially with social marketing, as the volunteer group already has its own webpage and the P&R staff has no one with that expertise. “If you can help us to put out a coherent message, perhaps through a small subcommittee, that would be a great benefit. We do have a presence on the Town website but you have to dig through it to find us, and people generally do not have the patience to do that. I would like a Facebook site where we can push all our traffic, to explain how great we are and we are going to be.”

Sign, Sign, Everywhere A Sign!

In responding to a query about additional or improved signage, Sean said, “This will probably need to wait until the completion of Estero Boulevard construction that is directly in front of our primary entrances, but in reality we need to scale back and not increase this because we have signs everywhere! What we really need to do is to implement the National Park System protocol that emphasizes simple terminology and symbols, something already partially adopted by Lee County.”

When answering a question about marketing and fundraising, De Palma explained, “These are two huge priorities. We are working with our first two destination drop-off points for our material, at Town Hall and the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, and will expand this, with perhaps the Public Library as a potential location.”

As for grant dollars, “We need to build a database. Without that necessary research information, we can do nothing right now because we cannot meet any required criteria to be competitive, so we need to correct this internally before we can expand externally. We need to quantify proven outcomes with tangible dates to compete for grants because they do not just give you money because you say you have a need. Again, we do not have that skill on staff right now, with me having just limited experience in this area.”

In conclusion, Sean said, “The two main things you need to know about me are everything must be transparent all the time, and our information must remain current or people will not have an interest in us. We have a lot that we are moving along with, but we have so much more to get to yet to arrive at where we have to go, and I look forward to making that journey with you.”

 

Gary Mooney