2016-04-15 / Community

Kennebunk selects new rec director

Tasha Pinkham had been Buxton director since July 2008
By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

Tasha Pinkham Tasha Pinkham KENNEBUNK — There may not be a new sheriff in town, but there’s a new whistle, worn around the neck of Kennebunk’s first new recreation director in three decades.

The town has hired Buxton recreation director Tasha Pinkham to take the reins from Brian Costello, who will retire April 15 after 30 years on the job.

Pinkham’s appointment was due to be confirmed by selectmen at their April 12 meeting, which took place after the deadline for this week’s issue of the Kennebunk Post. However, that vote was expected to be a formality. The town issued a press release on Thursday, April 7, announcing Pinkham had been selected for the job.

“We look forward to Tasha bringing her leadership, energy and commitment to the Kennebunk Recreation Department. She will begin her new position on April 13,” Town Manager Barry Tibbetts wrote.

Pinkham earned a degree in therapeutic recreation from the University of Southern Maine and has worked in the recreation field for more than 20 years. She was the recreation director in Old Orchard Beach from 1995 to 1998 and then transitioned into public education, working as a physical education teacher at Cornerstone Baptist Academy, a private school in Scarborough, from 2000 to 2007.

While at CB, Pinkham also ran the cross country and ski club programs. She had been the recreation director in Buxton since July 2008. She and her husband David have six children and live in Buxton.

Pinkham could not be reached for comment. However, her LinkedIn page provides a thought about her time in Buxton and her work philosophy.

“Buxton has become a very healthy, vibrant and diverse community,” she wrote. “I have enjoyed being at the forefront of this community change by working with our schools and youth sports groups and community leaders to bring better health and recreation to our town and employees.

“Happy, healthy recreation sets a tone, a direction in both young and old. It’s what I do and it’s what I love,” Pinkham wrote.

For her part, Pinkham will have big shoes to fill.

Under Costello, Kennebunk’s recreation department has grown from 45 programs in all, with annual revenues from participation fees of just $26,000, to more than 600 distinct programs this past year, which generated more than $700,000 in revenue. Meanwhile, the 16 day campers Costello loaded onto a bus his first week on the job have now grown to a database of 3,600 families.

“I’ll be honest with you, my first month here [as director], I didn’t think I was going to last. It was rough,” Costello joked in a February interview with the Post. “But I think when you get to a position in which you like a community, you adopt that community as your own, so you don’t want to go. You don’t want to leave it.”

Still, after 30 years, and at 56 still young enough to have an entire second career, Costello said it was time to move on to new challenges.

“There comes a time in your life when you’ve done as much as you want to do in something,” he said. “I felt that everything was going really well, that everything was in place so somebody else could come in and do the job without missing a step. It’s a good time to go because everything here is running the way I want it to go.”

After Costello announced his retirement in January, selectmen briefly questioned if Kennebunk actually needs a recreation director. Ideas were floated to maybe merge programs with Kennebunkport or Arundel, to hire someone to administer that department at $15 per hour, rather than as a salaried department head, or to divvy up Costello’s duties among current recreation department employees.

It was only by a narrow 4-3 margin at their Feb. 9 meeting that selectmen consented to advertise for a replacement.

However, that decision was bolstered by a large contingent that turned out at a pair of budget meetings this year, to let selectmen know in no uncertain terms that they wanted a full-time director, and a fully-funded recreation department. Some were concerned by the characterization that because the recreation department is not 100 percent funded by user fees, it “runs a deficit” of $240,000 covered by taxpayers.

During one meeting, Selectman Richard Morin apologized for posting to the KBK Moms Facebook page about the budget, while Chairman Kevin Donovan expressed frustration with residents taking the board to task for batting around money-saving ideas.

“I’m sorry if we upset people,” Donovan said. “But that’s life, get over it. This is a lot of money.”

Donovan later announced he would not run for re-election in June, citing the budget confrontations as a contributing factor in his decision.

For his part, Costello said that while the job itself has been a rewarding experience, there are battles to be fought every budget season.

“My other advice to the next director – don’t take anything personally,” he said.

A request emailed to Tibbetts Monday morning requesting information on Pinkham’s salary and the number of applicants she beat out for the job was not returned by press time Tuesday.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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