Gainesville’s search for a new parks director to replace longtime retiring director Melvin Cooper has been narrowed down to one candidate.
Kate Mattison, recreation services administrator with the city of Dublin, Ohio’s parks and recreation department, is the sole finalist to be the new director of Gainesville Parks and Recreation.
She has worked in Dublin for five years and previously worked in Gahanna, Ohio, for four years. Both cities are suburbs of Columbus.
“I have always been a crazy lover of the outdoors and parks,” Mattison said.
Mattison will be visiting Gainesville next week. She is the only candidate who will be brought in for a final interview with the Gainesville Parks and Recreation Board’s executive committee, and an announcement will be made in the coming month about if the position has been filled. The nationwide search began in November, and the city received 63 applications.
In her current role in Ohio, Mattison oversees aquatics, some programming and the Dublin Community Recreation Center, a 110,000-square-foot facility with gyms, fitness equipment, swimming pools and a community theater.
Dublin has a slightly larger population than Gainesville. According to 2017 census estimates, Dublin has about 47,000 people, while Gainesville has around 40,000.
Mattison has a Bachelor of Science in sports management from Ohio University and a Master of Science in recreation, sport and tourism from the University of Illinois.
She first worked in sports marketing and sales but said she wanted more personal connections in her job, so she decided to enter the field of parks and recreation, she said.
While Mattison is an Ohio native, she has spent time in the Northeast Georgia mountains and said she likes the area.
“The landscape that’s there, and the mountains, and being so close to so many recreational opportunities — when I saw the position open up, and I have been to the area before, I knew it was such a great place,” she said.
Cooper will be retiring in May after 47 years with Gainesville Parks and Recreation, and Mattison said she is anticipating meeting with him on her visit to Gainesville.
“It seems like it’s already a really amazing department and program, and I look forward to meeting the current director and getting his thoughts before he retires,” Mattison said. “He seems like a very well-respected, loved man in the community.”