New Rogersville Parks and Rec director Matthew Elkins is back where his career began 21 years ago where at the age of 20 he was doing maintenance and mowing fields.
Although he’s made a few stops in-between including Grainger County, and most recently in the Kingsport Parks Department, the Rogersville native never really left.
He’s raising his family in Rogersville, and his children are using the park the same way he did as a child.
That give Elkins a unique perspective because he can view Rogersville City Park not only as the director, but also as a patron.
“I never really left,” Elkins said. “I commuted to Kingsport for eight years. My drive time I’ve cut back incredibly, which is awesome. But, I coached at the (Rogersville) parks department a few years ago when my son was playing. My kids swam on the swim team last year. We come to this park quite often, and I’ve always noticed things I’d like to see done. Having that Parks and Rec background I’d identify things that need to be improved or updated. Over the years we visited this park a lot. Our kids play on the playground. I like disk golf. We’d go to the pool and my kids played in the sports programs.”
Elkins added, “During that time I’m making lists in my head of things I’d like to see done, and now I’m kind of in a position where I can help accomplish some of these things.”
Elkins started at Rogersville Parks and Rec (P&R) when he was 20 and stayed there 4-5 years while he was working toward his undergraduate degree in Sports and Leisure Management at ETSU.
As he progressed in Rogersville he still did maintenance, but he was also delegated to do some programming, and gained more experience on the administrative side of parks and rec.
Around 2004 he became P&R director for Grainger County which has what he describes as “a very small but beautiful park” on the far west end of Cherokee Lake near Jefferson City.
That department had been started with a grant two years before Elkins arrived. Elkins became the third director in its third year, but he enjoyed the job and stayed there five years.
One of his first acts as director was to utilize grant funding to build new walking trails and a playground.
While he was there they received a $600,000 grant that was used to build a new pavilion, add playground equipment, and grade and install lights on a ball field.
“I got some really valuable experience working with three grants,” Elkins said. “Fifteen years later they’re still going strong and still have a good program. We started a basketball program down there that had seven total teams in two different age groups. By the third year I think we were up to like 25-30 teams playing all across the county.”
Elkins left Grainger County to earn his masters degree in Business Administration from ETSU. Upon graduating he became director of the Rogersville Boys and Girls Club where he served for about a year and a half before being hired by the city of Kingsport in February of 2014.
For five years he managed Kingsport’s adult and youth athletic leagues, and then was promoted to program coordinator which is over the athletics division of P&R. During that time he managed facilities budgets and full time staff.
One of his best experiences while working in Kingsport was helping launch the Miracle Field, and overseeing programming and leagues there for children and adults with special needs.
“That’s a project that was very near and dear to my heart,” Elkins said. “It’s for a demographic that is underserved. The closest Miracle Field right now is probably Chattanooga. It’s not just for people with special needs. It’s for people of all abilities. And it’s not just a field. It’s a whole complex. It’s got a concession stand. It’s got a big new awesome playground. Everything in that whole facility was geared toward people of all abilities.”
As the new Rogersville P&R director Elkins said one of his top goals will be to use his athletics background to build up the city’s athletic leagues.
Part of that process will be modernization of the registration and communication process featuring online registration and schedules and utilize available technology to communicate what programs and services are available.
He’s also joining Rogersville P&R in the midst of the proposed City Park expansion which includes a new City Hall, gymnasium and possibly an indoor pool on Main Street adjacent to the current park administration building.
Although that project was slowed by COVID and the higher construction costs that followed the pandemic, Elkins said he’s ready to follow through with the Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s wishes when that project resumes.
Elkins’ arrival as the Rogersville P&R director also coincides with the creation of a 10-year parks master plan being completed jointly by Rogersville, Church Hill and the county. When that plan is created, projects identified in the plan will be eligible for state grant funding.
He said his experience in other communities, as well as travel across the state and region, have given him lots of ideas about new things that can be done in Rogersville.
“There are a lot of things I’ve noticed over the years that need updating,” Elkins said. “Some terribly. I’ve got several projects that I want to work on this. This master plan is going to be very instrumental in providing directions on which way we want to go and help us prioritize what projects we want to tackle first.”
Elkins added, “Identify which projects we can do in-house, and which projects we want to reserve and go after some grant assistance for. Right now I’m getting basketball league rolling, but I’m also brainstorming and making — almost like wish list of here’s what we’d like to see.”