|Longtime Heritage Park Manager Cliff Smith to retire Dec. 12|
"It's going to be good for me and it's going to be good for the District," Smith said of his retirement, which begins Dec. 12." There's a time when a person needs to be able to say, 'I need to be able to let somebody else take those reigns and see where they can go with it.' I've had that park for years and years and it's time for someone else to give it a try."
"I like my job. I've always enjoyed it," Smith added. "I'm enjoying the idea of retirement, but I've always liked this job. The people around here are just so good to work with and that makes a difference you know. It's going to be a big change and I really am going to miss everyone, but no second thoughts and no regrets."
As to retirement plans, Smith plans to sell his Louisburg area home around the first of the year and move to the house he built about a year ago across Lake Taneycomo from Branson, Mo., in Hollister, Mo. Smith said he plans to work about nine months out of the year and enjoy the many things to do and friendly people the Branson area has to offer.
Born in Missouri, Smith moved to Texas City, Texas, near Galveston with his family after the sixth grade. Cliff returned to this area in December 1975. He started with the District on April 25, 1976, as a park worker at Shawnee Mission Park.
Prior to coming to the District, Smith worked mostly in construction, including roofing, carpentry, and plumbing.
"I did all kinds of labor," Smith said. "You name it, I did it. I was a jack of all trades back then."
After about six months, Smith became a senior park worker at Shawnee Mission Park, a position he held for about a year. He then became manager of unmaintained properties, where he took care of five undeveloped park properties. After another year, he returned to Shawnee Mission Park as a senior park worker. In 1979, he became park manager at Antioch Park. During his year at that park, he hired current Antioch Park Manager Carolyn Moody and had current District Executive Director Michael Meadors serve under him as an intern.
In Fall 1980, Smith became manager of Heritage Park, which opened earlier that year. He has been there ever since with oversight duties over the smaller Thomas S. Stoll Memorial and Stanley Parks.
Smith counts his long tenure with the District as one of his major accomplishments.
"When I started, managers lasted about five years," he said. "I was asked 'why in the world would you like to be a manager - you'll only be here for five more years?' And I said "I'll see what I can do' and I've been here for 32 years."
During that time, he has seen and been involved with a lot of development of various properties and projects.
These included the removal of Ridge Road from Shawnee Mission Park (now the off-leash area); placement of modular buildings at Antioch Park, Heritage Park, Shawnee Mission Park, Stanley Park and Stoll Park; moving The Theatre in the Park from the small lakes area at Shawnee Mission Park to its present location; and earlier this year serving on the committee which helped select Bill Maasen as Superintendent of Parks and Golf Courses.
Smith also reflected on the Heritage Park that might have been. He said earlier unrealized plans for the park at one time included a Winchester Hunting Club where the Heritage Soccer Complex is now, a recreated 1800s town to tie into the park's name where the MACTA (Mid-America Combined Training Association) Equestrian Area is, and a recreational vehicle campground where Heritage Park Golf Course now sits.
"It just a total different build, but as times change, we have to change with them," Smith said.