Kent County hires parks department director

Kent County hires parks department director

KENT COUNTY, MI – Kent County has hired a new parks director.

Ben Swayze, the township manager of Cascade Township, will start as the director of the Kent County Parks Department on May 22, county officials announced Thursday, April 27.

“Parks and recreation are critical to the quality of life in Kent County, and we are fortunate to welcome Ben to the team,” said Kent County Deputy Administrator Mark Rambo. “He brings a wealth of experience in parks and recreation, municipal leadership, and a passion for enhancing the lives of everyone who lives, works, and plays in Kent County.”

The county recently restored the position of parks director to increase the department’s administrative capacity to lead a number of projects, including expanding the Grand River Greenway, updating the Parks master plan, and working on planned property acquisitions.

The parks and recreation director will also work closely with the superintendent of the current park. County officials did not immediately respond when asked how much Swayze will be paid annually.

Before leading Cascade Township, Swayze was the parks and recreation director and city manager for the city of Milan, Michigan, overseeing an extensive park and trail system and full-service recreation department.

Prior to Milan, he was the assistant manager position for the Apex Center – a 168,000-square-foot, multi-use recreation center, in Arvada, Colorado.

As the county’s parks director, Swayze will direct the development and implementation of policies, procedures, and programs to preserve, expand and improve county parklands all under the direction of the county administrator’s office.

“I’m grateful for this opportunity to join a team of individuals who work so hard to serve the community,” Swayze said. “Parks and recreation are integral parts of the vitality of the county, and I’m excited to be a part of the continued success of this department.”

Swayze holds a master’s degree in public administration from Central Michigan University and a bachelor’s degree in sports management and communication from the University of Michigan.

Kent County conducted a national search to fill the director position. A five-member, internal selection committee reviewed applications and conducted interviews before Swayze was selected for the job.

Kent County has one of the largest parks departments in the state with 42 parks, greenspaces, and regional trails totaling more than 7,354 acres.

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