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Director of Manchester Recreation Department Bonnie Gamble plans to retire June 30, 2021.

Gamble has worked at the department for 20 years, serving as director for 19 years.

She enjoyed her role, which allowed her to improve recreational opportunities for Manchester residents.

“I really enjoyed projects like the greenway,” she said. “I started the greenway. The Hunter Gattis Memorial Playground in front of Fred Deadman Park was also one of our first projects. Of course, (building) the recreation complex was huge.”

Gamble also worked to development and purchase the soccer field.

“And, then, the concession stands that are in Fred Deadman and Dave King Park were all built with grants I wrote,” she said.

Thanks to Gamble’s efforts, a new, inclusive playground now welcomes children of all ages and abilities. Additionally, Fitcore Extreme Obstacle Course will be finished soon.

Gamble founded Park Partners, a nonprofit aiming to fund improvements at the recreation department.

Among Gamble’s accomplishments are the completion of Little Duck River Greenway and a fourth softball field in Dave King Park. She also established the Community Garden and Greenhouse. Gamble expanded the Summer Day Camp program and implemented Memorial Bench Program and Middle School Bike Club and Outdoor Club.

She is looking forward to spending time with her family.

“My daughter is having a baby in October, a boy, so I’ll have another grandson,” Gamble said. “I am looking forward to being able to help them out and spend time with my grandchildren. And I have a daughter that lives in New Zealand.  That’s not a short trip, and I want to be able to visit and to spend time with her.”

Gamble hopes to continue to work part time.

“I’d like to still work part time for the city on projects,” she said. “Also, other communities have contacted me that they would be interested in contracting me to do some work for them, so I can do that on my own schedule.”

Gamble thanked the community for the support.

“With the support of the taxpayers and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, we have accomplished some things,” she said. “We have a park system that other people in the state look at as an example of what they can do, and we have won awards. So I’m really proud of the work we’ve done. We also have an excellent staff, really dedicated staff.

“Full time, including myself, we have 13 people, but, usually, in the summer time, we have 50 people working.”

 

Hiring new director

With Gamble’s retirement announced, the city will launch a process for her replacement.

“To hire new director, the mayor will be working with the recreation commission to decide what they are looking for in a director and they will go from there,” Gamble said. “They will first advertise it in-house to employees that are currently working in the city.”

The recreation commission will make a recommendation BOMA, and BOMA will hire the new director, according to Gamble.

 

‘Bonnie has made major differences’

Alderman Ryan French said Gamble’s positive impact on Coffee County will remain long after she has retired.

“Bonnie Gamble has made an impact on our community that will be evident for generations to come,” French said. “Without Bonnie it is safe to say we would not have a recreation complex, greenway system, and soccer complex among many other things.

“Bonnie has served as a visionary and helped position the city to not only serve residents with great facilities, but also compete on the youth travel sports arena as well. The economic impact that these facilities have on our community annually is immense.”

Beyond her day-to-day impact as director, Gamble has worked to fund multiple projects through grants, according to French.

“Bonnie has made major differences by facilitating grants across multiple city departments and has worked closely with community partners like Park Partners and the Manchester Rotary to facilitate projects with funding beyond taxpayer dollars,” French said. “Bonnie is leaving us with an enormous legacy.”

Gamble’s successor “will have big shoes to fill,” said French.

“I can say personally and professionally she will be truly missed in her full-time role,” French said.