Thursday, April 16, 2015

Joplin Parks and Recreation director resigns

Chris Cotten, probably the only parks and recreation director in history to receive a written reprimand for bringing a minor league baseball team to his city, is resigning his position to take a job in Normal, Illinois.

The Loraine Report first revealed that former Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr had taken Cotton to task for contacting the El Paso Diablos, first reading him the riot act and then givnig him a written reprimand.

Cotton's crime? Rohr was upset that the parks and rec director did not take the idea to the city's master developer Wallace-Bajjali Development Partners, a step which would have cost the city a substantial amount since Cotton did the work on his taxpayer salary, while Wallace-Bajjali would have received a fee for its involvement.

This was one of the items that the Joplin Globe did not think was newsworthy after it went to the trouble of going to court to get the Loraine Report open for the public, something for which it should be commended, and then proceeded to ignore any serious allegations that were included in the report.

The news release from the city on Cotten's resignation is printed below:

Joplin Parks Director Chris Cotten has announced that he will leave the City Parks and Recreation Department in mid-June. Cotten has accepted the Director of Parks position with Normal, Illinois.

“Joplin has been an incredibly supportive community,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed working at the City of Joplin and appreciate the many projects I’ve been able to accomplish with the help of a wonderful staff. This relocation is a great opportunity for me to continue my professional career in a community that supports parks and recreation activities. It’s something that I could not pass up at this stage in my life.”

Cotten is staying through the middle of June in order to see the completion of two major projects for the City: the renovation of Joe Becker Stadium and the construction of Joplin’s first skatepark.

“These projects will be a great asset to this community, and I am proud to have been a part of the City’s efforts to get them accomplished,” he said. “I look forward to opening day at Joe Becker, as well as watching the many skaters enjoying the fun and challenging park we’re building for them in Ewert Park. It will be hard to leave such a great staff and community, but this is a great step for me and my family to take for our future.”

Cotten joined the City in March 2011, a few short months before the May 22 tornado destroyed several parks in Joplin, as well as 130,000 trees in the community. As Parks Director, Cotten led the rebuilding efforts of these parks and the urban reforestation.

“The leadership and change that Chris brought to the Parks Department in 2011 was greatly needed, and he has laid the groundwork for the continued success of the department through his efforts,” said City Manager Sam Anselm. “The events of May 22 sidetracked his and the City’s efforts to bring new recreational opportunities to our community, but despite that challenge and in addition to restoring Cunningham, Garvin, and Parr Hill Parks, his direct efforts have landed the Joplin Blasters, the Joplin Demize, a new skate park, and a host of recreational programs for our residents to enjoy.”

Park projects that have been completed under Cotten’s tenure include the Schifferdecker Aquatic Center, the rebuilding of Cunningham Park, Garvin Park, and Parr Hill Park; the addition of a dog park for Joplin residents; and the development of the Butterfly Garden and Overlook that serves as a reflection and healing site for tornado survivors. He also worked with his staff to bring the Gene Bassman Softball Complex online; develop and manage a youth soccer club; and recruit and provide amenities for both semi-pro soccer (Joplin Demize) and baseball (Joplin Blasters) to play in Joplin.

“Chris has made a wonderful and long-lasting contribution to Joplin,” said Anselm, “and while I’m sad to see him go, I wish him, his wife Penny, and their family nothing but success as they start the next chapter in their lives. The city and residents of Normal, Illinois, are lucky to have him join their team.”


Anonymous said...

If only we knew the real story...ho hum

Anonymous said...

Glad to see him go.

Anonymous said...

Leaving Joplin for a "Normal" place to live lololololol

Anonymous said...

He gets to leave while his bad decision making will play out over the next few years.

Steve Curry said...

I have worked for Chris Cotton from day one. I knew within a week that we had a "star" working to not only improve the Joplin Parks Department but to take it to levels that most people only could dream of. With his skills, education and energizer bunny type work ethic I thought he would be a breath of fresh air in a stagnant city hall. Before he could reach full stride he ran head on into an F-5 tornado after only 4 months on the job. Chris rolled up his sleeves and methodically began re-assembling and re-building our devastated City and Parks system.
He was able to facilitate the procurement of literally millions of dollars from corporate and other various charities. These funds were earmarked for parks repairs and improvements.
Chris was the driving force for the new Schifferdecker Aquatic Facility, Skate Park, Butterfly Garden Memorial at Cunningham and Joe Becker Renovations and many many other improvements.
We were lucky to have such a talented individual at the top position of our department. He was always first to arrive at work and last to leave at nite. He expected the same dedication from his staff too and if you were not willing to give your best effort you were encouraged to become a better employee. If you would not give your best effort you would be one of the anonymous whiners posting the negative comments.
I wish Chris all the best in the City of Normal. I hope he has a city manager that will not reprimand him for doing his job and other department heads that realize Chris is a rare person that should be embraced as an asset to the community instead of subjecting him to petty squabbling between department heads. Bottom line is we lost an asset and Normal Illinois gained a good friend.
Best wishes for Chris and family.