For Reggie Davidson, working as recreation superintendent for the city’s Park and Recreation Department looks different every day.
Some days, he may be at city hall, working in the office. Others, he’s at a golf course or a city pool.
But his favorite days are when he gets to fill in as a camp counselor at the city’s summer camp.
“I’m a program person at heart,” Davidson said. “Getting an opportunity to see some of the impact of what we’re doing with those young people is an area that I really enjoy.”
Davidson was named Wichita’s recreation superintendent in 2018, and his hands-on, collaborative attitude has made an impact. This year, he received the Excellence in Public Service Award from the city of Wichita, an honor granted to public employees for strong work ethic, exceptional performance and commitment to community. In addition to his work with the city, Davidson is involved in community service, including the Boy Scouts of America and the Kansas Recreation and Park Association.
The Wichita Beacon asked Davidson about his work at the parks department, his diversity and inclusion efforts and his community service. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You’ve been working in parks and recreation for a while, before you came to Wichita. What brought you into parks and recreation to begin with?
I’m a product of parks and rec. I grew up in a community where I participated in a lot of those programs as a youth and saw the value that it provided and had some mentors and people that made a positive impact in my life. So when I had the opportunity to do the same, I made sure that I was able to hopefully make the same impact on someone else’s life.
Your biography says you have a “teamwork makes the dream work” attitude. What does that mean to you? What’s an example of the team you work with exemplifying that attitude?
I have a sports background, and it’s important to me to have everyone on board to come to the same goal. One thing that comes to mind for me is when we had some of the challenges in 2020 with the pandemic. We had to close some of our facilities during that time frame. Some of our team was furloughed. We were able to work as a team to allocate sick and vacation time to make sure that everyone that was employed got paid during that time frame. That was important for us…. Our city administration allowed us to do that, and we were able to donate time to a pool to ensure that we were able to get everyone paid during that time frame and and no one miss a paycheck. That was one of those time frames that we were able to definitely, teamwork makes the dream work.
We had two new employees at that time frame that didn’t have sick or vacation time to allow them to get paid during that time frame. And enough of our team members donated to make sure that everyone got paid.
You do a lot of work in the community. Are there specific projects or volunteer opportunities you want to highlight?
The one that comes to mind to me is the volunteer work I do with the Quivira Council of Boy Scouts. One of the challenges that they have was being able to reach some of the traditionally underserved communities, the African American and Latino community. And working with them to establish some programs to reach those demographics and start some in our inner cities, to be able to get some of those young people engaged and participating in scouting. That’s something I’m really excited about. The council has been really supportive with that.
I was involved in scouting myself as a youth. I have some experience there and saw some of the values that it taught me, and it kind of reinforced some of the things that my parents taught me at home. So that’s something that I definitely see value in.
Is there anything that people might not know about the recreation department that they should know about?
I think one of the things that we do a really good job of and that the community may not be aware of is some of the partnerships we have in the community. We work really closely with USD 259 to do summer meal programs for those young people who may be without food during the summertime that they normally get during the school year. We also work with the Salvation Army here and the Kansas Food Bank, where we host some of their locations at our community facilities where there’s food deserts where people in the community can actually come and pick up food. We work with them in conjunction with that. We also do quite a bit with working with organizations like KETCH, who we have a partnership with that uses one of our rec centers to offer day programming there. KETCH is an organization that provides day programs and skills for individuals who have cognitive or physical disabilities.
You’ve been here about four years. Is there anything that you are most proud of or excited about when you think of your work in the recreation department?
Probably my involvement with the Kansas Recreation and Park Association to establish a statewide diversity and inclusion committee. Part of that was to make sure that they’re looking at all segments of the community throughout the state and seeing how they can hire individuals who represent the communities as well as provide programming that’s relevant for those individuals that they’re looking to serve. That’s probably one of the things that I’m most proud of that I’ve been able to help get up and going.
We’ve actually started a local initiative with the city through the parks department, with a committee that we call JEDI, which is justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. We’re actually looking at our operations, and how we provide services to the community and seeing that it’s being as inclusive as we can be. We’re actually participating in the upcoming Juneteenth parade that’s happening, the festivities here. We’re also participating in the Pride event that’s going to be happening here in the community as well. And then looking at our overall operations to see what we’re doing to make sure that we’re being welcoming to all segments of the community.
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