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Hickory Parks and Recreation Director announces retirement after 37 years

HICKORY, NC (April 29, 2019) — After more than 37 years of dedicated service to the citizens of Hickory, Parks and Recreation Director Mack McLeod announced that he will retire on June 1, 2019. 

“It has been my pleasure to serve the citizens of Hickory and work in partnership with City staff to provide quality recreation programming and help grow Hickory’s park system over the years,” said McLeod.  “Hickory is very fortunate to have a department of dedicated and professional recreation staff and offer a wealth of activities and amenities, with even more on the way.”

“Mack has been an integral member of the City staff and has led his department with integrity and humility. One of his strongest traits is the ability to establish and maintain effective communications and rapport with fellow staff, management, and citizens, plus the various community partners that participate in and support local sports and recreation programs,” noted City Manager Warren Wood. 

McLeod grew up in Scotland County, North Carolina.  He graduated from North Carolina State University in 1981 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Recreation Resources Administration.  Upon learning about a job opportunity in the Hickory Parks and Recreation Department, he applied for the position and moved to Hickory to start his career with the City of Hickory.

McLeod was appointed by then City Manager Gary McGee as Hickory’s Parks and Recreation Director on June 16, 1998.  He began his career at the City of Hickory in the Parks and Recreation Department as Assistant Recreation Center Supervisor at the original Highland Recreation Center on January 11, 1982.  He was then promoted to Recreation Center Supervisor at Highland Recreation Center, and later to Recreation Program Supervisor, where he worked in youth and adult athletics for about 10 years.  He then moved into administration as Senior Administrative Assistant, working with then Parks and Recreation Director Danny Thompson.  When Thompson retired, McLeod served as Acting Director until being selected and appointed as the City of Hickory’s Parks and Recreation Director in June 1998.

“On behalf of City Council, we greatly appreciate Mack’s professionalism and dedication to serving Hickory residents and visitors over the years.  His leadership of the Parks and Recreation Department has helped to make Hickory a better community and a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family.  We certainly wish him a long and happy retirement,” shared Mayor Hank Guess.  

Throughout his career, McLeod has made many contributions to Hickory’s Parks and Recreation Department.  Under his leadership, Parks and Recreation staff developed many new special events, opportunities in athletics, and recreation programs, including, but not limited to,  the addition of the Back to School Bash, F.I.R.E. festival, youth lacrosse, girls’ volleyball, the Summer Outdoor Adventure Program (S.O.A.P.), a fall youth instructional baseball program, and the Greater Hickory Metro Basketball Camp.  With a priority of safeguarding the well-being of Hickory citizens, McLeod also implemented a concussion protocol policy for all youth sports programs and instituted criminal background checks on all volunteer coaches and class instructors.

During his tenure, McLeod worked to improve existing facilities and properties, and build new amenities for Hickory residents and visitors.  Notable achievements under his leadership include the building of the new Highland Recreation Center at Stanford Park, the completion of the Zahra Baker All Children’s Playground and Charles D. Dixon Memorial Splash Pad at Kiwanis Park, and the development of the Henry Fork River Regional Recreation Park.  McLeod helped implement major renovations and improvement projects at Ridgeview Recreation Center, Taft Broome Park, Neill Clark Gymnasium, Hickory Optimist Park, and L.P. Frans Stadium, which is home to the Hickory Crawdads.  He also repurposed the underutilized Fairbrook Optimist Park into a popular dog park and built community gardens at Civitan and Taft Broome Parks.

McLeod and City staff worked in partnership with community groups to enhance recreation amenities and offerings in Hickory.  A partnership with the Northwest North Carolina Mountain Bike Alliance yielded popular improvements to the existing mountain bike trails between Hickory City Park and Rotary-Geitner Park to create what are now known as the Lake Hickory Trails.  The Parks and Recreation Department entered into a priority-use agreement with the Greater Hickory Tennis Association to complete tennis complex improvements at Hickory City Park.  The department also developed a swim lesson partnership with the YMCA of Catawba Valley and a partnership with the Hickory Music Factory for music art programs in exchange for facility usage.  Additionally, McLeod was involved in the initial formation of the Catawba Valley Youth Soccer Association, which assisted in the development of the soccer complex at Henry Fork River Regional Recreation Park and continues to use the complex as the association’s home facility.

With a vision for the future, McLeod also worked on long-range planning for Hickory’s park system.  He worked with staff and consultants to complete the master park site plan for the future Bruce Meisner Park and the master park site plan for the future Sandy Pines Park.

 Through the years, McLeod also served his community outside of the Hickory Parks and Recreation Department.  He was involved in the establishment of the Hickory Metro Sports Commission – a group dedicated to furthering the quality of life through the development, promotion, and recruitment of sporting events and activities to the Greater Hickory area – and previously served as its chairman.  Thanks to his efforts, and the efforts of the Hickory Metro Sports Commission, the Catawba County Sports Hall of Fame is now permanently displayed at Highland Recreation Center.  McLeod is a member of the Western Catawba County Kiwanis Club, a member of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, and previously served as president of the North Carolina Recreation and Park Association.  As Hickory Parks and Recreation Director, McLeod also served as staff liaison for the City’s Parks and Recreation Commission, an advisory group of Hickory citizens that provide input on a wide range of community recreation needs.

“I moved to Hickory as a young man looking for work experience, and quickly decided to put down roots in this wonderful community that I am fortunate to now call home.  I’ve enjoyed serving the citizens of Hickory, but am now excited for this next chapter in my life,” added McLeod.

McLeod is married to wife, Rebecca, who is the Health Director for Burke County.  They have two sons – Ian, who works in Parks and Recreation for the Town of Winterville, N.C., and Morgan, who is married to Alicen, is a teacher and basketball coach in Florida.