The Mansfield Parks system covers a lot of ground. With 14 parks, more than 500 acres of developed parkland and a growing recreational sport base, the Mansfield Parks and Recreation Department needed a captain.
The city picked Matt Young, a former parks superintendent with the city of Arlington and McKinney, for the role.
Young, 45, comes to Mansfield after working in parks for various cities for the past 20 years. He has a passion for city service and for providing for the community, but parks wasn’t his first choice while attending the University of Texas at Arlington.
“I actually wanted to be a coach and a teacher,” he said. “That’s what I went to school for, but during college, I started working for parks in my hometown of DeSoto. I was teaching classes, running leagues and during that process they opened the city’s first rec center. I started working there part time while going to school so that by the time I was a senior in school, it was time for my teaching certification and observation, but I knew what my passion was and it was parks and city government.”
Mansfield residents that spend a lot of time at parks will be happy with the change, according to his old boss, Lemuel Randolph, director of parks for Arlington.
“He has a servant’s heart,” Randolph said. “He really has a passion for providing parks and recreational services. He feels very strongly about soliciting public input to support different parks and recreation initiatives and projects. Mansfield is certainly very fortunate to have someone of Matt’s caliber leading that effort. I told Matt soon after I came to Arlington and recognized his talent that he had all the ability to be a director. It wasn’t a surprised to hear he was hired, it was well deserved. I think Mansfield is going to benefit very greatly from his passion and expertise.”
Young and his wife, Lisa, have been married for 18 years, have two children and live in Maypearl. His hobbies include attending his children’s sporting events.
But it was his passion for park works that led him to his current position.
While attending UTA, Young served in parks maintenance with his hometown in DeSoto. Slowly, but surely, he worked his way up the ladder. It was at that point that the writing was on the wall: he needed to stay in parks.
“My passion is definitely parks and recreation,” Young said. “I enjoy what we do. I enjoy delivering programs and services for residents. I know that the quality of life is important to people. They make their decisions on where to live for schools, public safety and quality of life, so parks and recreation plays a critical role in what our citizens are wanting and needing from city government. Just knowing that we are providing spaces and a sense of place to gather and socialize or have a family reunion or go to the parks and play with their children or go to the Pickle Parade; those kind of things make a difference in people’s lives.”
Young continued to climb. He worked in DeSoto, then was parks superintendent in Lancaster and finally at Arlington, where he served as parks superintendent for 18 months before being promoted to assistant parks director.
Having worked in close proximity to Mansfield for so many years, it was an easy choice for him to apply for the position of director when it became available. And a good choice for Mansfield, said Shelly Lanners, deputy city manager for community services and former parks director.
“Matt has 20 years of experience in parks and recreation. He has also worked for three other cities and that city experience is invaluable,” Lanners said. “His expansive knowledge of parks and recreation includes park maintenance, park planning and recreational programming. The city of Mansfield and the parks and recreation department will benefit greatly from his passion and drive to continue to provide an award-winning park system to our citizens.”
The city’s many parks and unused acreage appealed to Young’s desire for expansion, beautification and providing the best possible community experience.
“There is a lot of opportunity here,” Young said. “With the areas that have been mapped out and the undeveloped land with all the future growth that is going to happen, I wanted to be a part of designing and implementing those facilities.”
Young has only been the director for a couple of weeks, but has helped with the progression of city projects. Julian Feild underwent playground construction and expansion, while Elmer Oliver Nature Park undergoes erosion preparedness construction over the summer. And in the offices and workrooms around the park department, whiteboards are filled with upcoming projects, renovations and maintenance.
“I want to try and uphold the highest quality standards the city of Mansfield has established within the community,” Young said. “The city council and city administrators are dedicated to developing and maintaining those high quality standards and it’s clear they do that. Whether it’s the medians, the right of ways, the public grounds…the parks department is charged with maintaining, it’s not just about neighborhood parks and sports fields. We maintain all the public facilities and, as you drive around Mansfield, you see it’s a higher level and that’s what the residents desire and deserve.”