After five years as the director of the Alexandria Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Activities, Sandra Whitmore is retiring. She made the announcement to her staff earlier this week.
"It's been a real roller coaster ride," Whitmore said. "You begin with some trepidation and there have been real highs and some not so high moments. I have accomplished the major goals that I had hoped to accomplish and have decided that it's time to play a lot of golf and spend time with the grandchildren. I have enjoyed my time in the city and am very proud of all of the things that we have accomplished during my tenure. I could not have accomplished those things alone, however. It has been a team effort and I am very grateful to my staff for all of their hard work."
During Whitmore's tenure, the city has adopted an open space plan, made significant improvements to many recreation centers and parks throughout the city, seen the opening of Ben Brenman Park and worked toward national accreditation for the department.
"That process is well on its way to being completed," Whitmore said. "We have submitted our self evaluation to the National Parks and Recreation Association and expect a visitation team some time in February. Although the Association won't vote on our accreditation until the October meeting, we should know immediately after the team visit what the recommendation is going to be."
WHEN WHITMORE was hired in 1998, the department had many issues. "We conducted a national search because we needed someone with professional experience in parks and recreation administration," said former City Manager Vola Lawson, who hired Whitmore. "We saw dozens of applications and Sandra's breadth of experience was by far the best that we saw. She was the right person for the job at the time and I am very proud of all that she has accomplished."
Mayor William D. Euille agreed, saying, "Sandra has done a terrific job in bringing the recreation centers and the parks along nicely. This is not to say that everything has always gone smoothly. It is not always easy to work with all of the various groups who have an interest in our parks and our recreational opportunities. If we had unlimited funds, we would have the best facilities. Sandra has done a terrific job with what she has been given.
"We have more to accomplish and the city manager will be looking for someone who can continue the progress that Sandra has begun. If we can find that person locally, we will. If we cannot, we will conduct a thorough national search. We will hire the best professional for the job," Euille said.
City manager Philip G. Sunderland also had high praise for Whitmore. "I am extremely appreciative of the very substantial efforts and contributions that Sandra has made over the past five years," Sunderland said. "The city is going to miss her keen judgment, resourcefulness, solid management abilities, commitment to the department and dedication to providing recreation and cultural activities of the highest quality for Alexandrians."
Judy Noritake has worked closely with Whitmore since her hiring. Noritake is chair of the city's Parks and Recreation Commission. "The open space study and getting the department accredited are the most obvious of Sandra's accomplishments," Noritake said. "However, her broad experience in, and knowledge of other areas such as environmental policy, transportation and others, has had a major impact on the way that the rec department interacts with other city departments. There has been greater collaboration under Sandra's tenure than ever before and that has served the entire city well. She will be missed."
Whitmore will leave on March 5.