It’s the fulfillment of a longtime dream for Jen Davis – the Camden, Maine native was just tapped to become Peabody’s new Director.
Davis, 41, says she’s always wanted this type of job, particularly on the recreation front – her true passion. She has a degree in physical education from Keene State University, for the past 13 years she’s managed Peabody’s recreation programs, and before that, she spent five years at the Newburyport YWCA, first as an aquatics instructor and then as the youth coordinator.
“I’m pretty enthusiastic about it [the new position]” Davis said in a recent interview. “A bonus is that it’s in my backyard.”
“Dick Walker was the best person to work with,” she added, speaking of the former longtime director as a great mentor for the job. No truer statement, perhaps, because he was the first and only director for the department until now.
with the city. Over those four decades, the park and forestry divisions were added onto his duties, as well as overseeing operations at and the .
These days, the department has about 30 full-time workers and even more part-time employees.
Davis, sounding undaunted at the prospect, will take over all those duties. In her former role, Davis said, Walker would often involve her in various aspects of the department, so she’s not anticipating too many surprises in the days ahead.
“I think it will be a pretty smooth transition,” she said, although she admitted she would be learning the ins and outs of the business operations for and the golf course.
Following Walker’s retirement, the city Park Commission under the direction of the mayor’s office began looking for his replacement. The commission fielded about 40 applicants from around the country and interviewed nine candidates before picking Davis.
Vice President of the Park Commission Neal Price told the Salem News that he and his fellow commissioners thought she was a “great choice” for the job and were “thrilled” when she decided to apply.
He praised her management skills in running around 200 recreation programs for the city in her previous role.
Davis also notes that she helped create the public skate park on Perkins Street next to 10 years ago.
Davis’ promotion will not be official until the City Council approves the appointment by Mayor Ted Bettencourt on Thursday, but all indications are that vote will likely just be a procedural matter. She started in her new position, at least on a provisional basis, a week ago from Tuesday.
Her first task, of course, was to find her own replacement.
As to the road ahead, Davis does have a couple projects on the backburner she’d like to tackle soon, such as creating a community garden and creating some centralized outdoor play areas for toddlers.
Davis envisions setting aside some city land for seasonal gardening for members of the community. Neighboring communities, such as Danvers and Beverly, have these types of public garden areas and charge a nominal seasonal fee per plot. The only hitch is that someone may be on the waiting list for two or three years before being able to get a plot of their own.
In Peabody, the city has been planning on using Tillie’s Farm, which it purchased for $2.6 million in 2006, for the community gardening program.
As for the tot lots, Davis said, there are a number of them spread across the city, in varying degrees of condition; she’d like to focus on having some centrally located play areas.