Parks and rec head submits resignation

By Alex Bridges

Shenandoah County’s head of recreation and parks resigned this week.

Pam Sheets Salokangas submitted her resignation as director of the Department of Parks and Recreation on Tuesday, Assistant County Administrator Evan Vass said Thursday. The county announced her resignation, effective Nov. 18, in a news release issued Wednesday.

The county will begin the process of recruiting a new department director by advertising the vacancy. Officials have not decided if the county should appoint an interim director but Vass will take over the department’s administrative duties in the meantime. Staff members will handle day-to-day functions.

“Any time we have a senior-level person or a department that is missing a senior-level person it’s priority to get that position filled,” Vass said. “But at this time we will be putting together the appropriate job ad, reviewing the job description and moving forward with finding Mrs. Salonkangas’ replacement.”

Salokangas joined the county in 2006 and oversaw a department with five full-time employees, including the director and numerous part-time workers and volunteers. She earned a salary of about $60,000.

Salokangas stated in the release that “I’m confident the Department of Parks and Recreation will continue to be a highly valued and respected community asset; one that I’m very proud to have been a part of for the last eight years.”

Salokangas’ plans were not immediately known and she was unavailable for comment.

As the release states, parks and recreation “developed into a state of the art recreational asset,” for the county under Salokangas’ leadership. The director oversaw the expansion and enhancement of the department’s recreational programs and venues, improvements to the county park in Maurertown with the addition of onsite staff, increased maintenance, development of the walking trail and lighting at the ball fields.

The department under her leadership also developed online resources and social-media access for registration, the press release notes. Salokangas worked with stakeholders and community partners to develop and enhance recreational opportunities for residents.

Salokangas recently received the Virginia Recreation and Parks Society’s President’s Award in 2013 “for her commitment and role with the Society as well as her achievements in the field of parks and recreation.”

In the release, County Administrator Mary T. Price lauded Salokangas as a “very dedicated employee” to the department and the county as a whole. Price stated that Salokangas is “well-respected by her colleagues,” the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and her peers in the field. Salokangas “leaves behind a very positive legacy,” Price states in the release.

While the county has in the past year reviewed and made changes to some job descriptions and titles, Vass said it was too early to comment if officials would do the same with the director’s position.

“This is very recent and we will take a look at the department and, of course, if there’s any restructuring or re-titling, we’ll take those under consideration at the appropriate time and place,” Vass said.

Supervisor Cindy Bailey, who, on more than one occasion, criticized the department’s spending, said Salokangas’ resignation caught her off-guard.

“It was quite a surprise,” Bailey said. “I certainly had no indication that she was thinking about moving on and, quite frankly, I only know what was put on in the press release.

“We certainly hope to find someone to step into the position and work hard for the citizens of Shenandoah County,” Bailey added.

Asked whether or not she felt her criticism of the department’s spending influenced Salokangas’ resignation, Bailey called the budget work sessions, at which she voiced her concerns, “contentious.”

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com