By LANCE ARMSTRONG
Carmichael Recreation and Park District Administrator Jack Harrison will be retiring – again – on the last day of this month.
Harrison, 70, who retired from the state in 2000, continued to work for another 13 years, during which time he became the district’s administrator.
But for Harrison, he intends his upcoming retirement to be his last, as he leaves his leadership post content with a job well done and much anticipation for his future.
While sitting in his office last week, Harrison discussed details about his life, with his focus being his many years of employment.
Harrison, who was born and raised in Los Angeles by his parents, Jack, Sr. and Dorothy, was one of four children.
In 1961, the year after he graduated from Norwalk High School in Los Angeles County, Harrison obtained part-time employment with the Southeast Recreation and Park District in the Norwalk area.
Four years later, he graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a bachelor’s degree in parks and recreation management.
And shortly after leaving that university, Harrison began working full time at the same Southern California park district.
He left that job in 1969 to become the director of parks and recreation for the Orange County city of Tustin, which then had a population of about 40,000.
In commenting about that position, Harrison said, “To become a director of a department at only 25 years of age was pretty special for me. Most directors have quite a bit more experience. So, I was very delighted to become a director at that young age. And that community was in need of building some parks, because they had grown rapidly and they didn’t have as many parks as they should have for the size of population. So, we were successful in working with the community to get a park bond act passed by the voters for, as I recall, about $2 million, which was used to buy land and build four new parks. Three of the four (parks) were developed during the four years that I was (a director in Tustin).”
Following his time in Tustin, Harrison began performing private consulting work in park planning with a major firm in Southern California.
And a year later, in 1974, he moved to the Sacramento area to assist in park planning in Northern California for the same firm.
Harrison received a master’s degree in public administration at Golden Gate University in San Francisco in 1976.
During the same year, he was hired by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
In describing that position, Harrison said, “My job there was to manage the park acquisition, planning and development program, in other words to buy properties for new state parks, be responsible for planning what’s going to happen with those sites and then to see the construction through.”
In 1982, Harrison returned to the consulting field to perform park planning, design and consulting work. But this time, he worked for himself, as he established his own firm.
About a year later, he became the executive director of the California Parks and Recreation Society, which is the professional membership organization for people who work in public parks and recreation in California.
With the society, Harrison performed such duties as promoting parks and recreation at the state Capitol, working to provide training for members and conducting an annual conference.
Harrison said that he was once again working for the California Department of Parks and Recreation in 1987.
“I got appointed by Gov. (George) Deukmejian as chief deputy director of California State Parks,” Harrison said. “I was very excited about doing that (position), because I had worked for the department five years before. I (had) specifically only worked in the area of land acquisition and park development, and this position was to be responsible for all the field operations for the 285 state parks in California. So, it was a much bigger responsibility. It was a statewide responsibility, the rangers, the public safety program, the historians, the archaeologists, all the various specialties. I was responsible for everything that happened in the state parks.”
Five years after taking that position, Harrison became the director of the state Department of Social Services.
And as previously mentioned, Harrison retired from his employment with the state in 2000.
Despite his retirement, Harrison returned to performing consulting work, which then mostly consisted of serving as interim director in various agencies that were seeking a permanent, long-term director.
During that time, Harrison worked as an interim director for Marin County and the cities of Lodi and Merced.
An interim director position was made available in Carmichael in February 2006, and Harrison filled that vacancy.
The Carmichael district hired Harrison as its full-time administrator about nine months later, at which time he discontinued his consulting work.
In reminiscing about his time as the district’s administrator, Harrison said, “I’ve lived in the community since 1974, so I’ve been a part of this community. And to work in the community in which I’ve lived for a long time has been special. I have a lot of friends and I enjoy the staff that I work with here at the district and the board. They’re all very dedicated and we’re all on the same page. We’ve accomplished some good things in the community. So, it’s been very rewarding. I’ve enjoyed being part of progress and seeing good things happen in the community. It’s sad to walk away from that, but I’m still involved in the community. I’m currently vice president of the Kiwanis Club (of Carmichael). I’m a volunteer for Mercy Hospice and I have a lot of outdoor interests I’d like to pursue like tennis, biking (and) fishing. I also have a lot of projects that I’d like to do at home, and most importantly, I have two granddaughters in the area who I look forward to spending more time with. I also want to volunteer more in the community.”
He added that he may also play golf on a regular basis with a group of retired park professionals, and assist the district with some projects, if he is presented with such opportunities.
Harrison, who is also a member of the Carmichael-Old Foothill Farms community Planning Advisory Council, referred to some of the district’s greatest accomplishments under his direction.
One of these accomplishments was the development of Jan Park at 4310 Jan Avenue, O’Donnell Heritage Park at 6618 Rappahannock Way and Patriots Park at 6827 Palm Ave.
Other accomplishments included the establishment of a new master plan for the district, the acquisition of a grant to demolish the Carmichael Park pool and the placement of the reader board along Fair Oaks Boulevard at Carmichael Park.
Harrison, who will celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary next June with his wife, Nancy, emphasized that he is very appreciative of the support that District 3 Supervisor Susan Peters has provided to the district during his term.
“(Peters) has been actively involved to support us in every turn on everything that we’ve tried to do here that’s positive,” Harrison said. “So, Supervisor Peters deserves credit for a lot of progress that the park district has made during the seven years that I’ve been here.”
Although he said that he will miss serving as the district’s administrator, Harrison added that he felt that after dedicating so many years to that position, it was time for him to take a different direction in his life and allow someone else to replace him at the district office.
“It’s time to let someone else take the reigns,” Harrison said.