Marathon Parks and Recreation Department Head Jimmy Schmidt is fairly reserved until you get him talking about his old neighborhood of Bayside, New York or any of his rambunctious charges at the Community Park.
He’ll gladly regale you with tales of his 18 years in the construction business, most of them as a foreman managing huge job sites in Manhattan.
“A lot of people asked me when I took this job what experience I had managing kids, and I said quite honestly, not a whole lot,” he laughed, adding, “These kids are easy to manage compared with the egos of construction workers on a job site. There was also the language barrier with a lot of them.”
In 2001, Schmidt’s wife Patti, received notice that she was being offered in IT position with the National Weather Service. Formerly with the U.S. Department of Commerce, her office was packed for a transfer to Department of Interior when she received the call on a Sunday afternoon from the Meteorologist in Charge at the National Weather Service in Key West.
“She came home and said, ‘I got a job in Florida. Are you coming?’” he chuckled.
Schmidt obtained his degree in Parks and Recreation from Shepherd University, and while in college, began his career managing open gyms and after-school programs with the Jefferson County Recreation Department. His next assignment would take him to Maryland as Assistant Executive Director of the Washington County Boys Club for two years.
When the couple relocated to Cudjoe Key, Schmidt was hired as the Teen Coordinator for the Boys & Girls Club on Boca Chica.
Though he came to the City of Marathon in 2003 with basically a blank slate to work and develop new programs, Schmidt admits the one thing he’d like to see for local kids is a facility where teenagers can congregate and socialize in a safe environment.
“I learned a lot about that at the Boys & Girls Club,” he admitted. “Though all the kids did their activities in the same building, there was a separate entry and recreation area for teenagers. They didn’t want to be walking around with the six year olds and such. At that age, they’re looking to separate themselves from the adults. They need their own space.”
Schmidt and his staff have effectively grown the city’s Parks and Recreation Department from the ground up, initiating programs like Smart Start Sports, Camp Adventure and Home School Physical Education. (See related article about Upcoming Summer Programs in this edition.)
“Athletics is good not only for physical activity but as a tool for social development as well,” Schmidt insisted. “Home school kids are very smart and disciplined, but out of the traditional classroom setting, their social skills aren’t nearly as developed as kids in public school. Their parents are even coming out to our weekly home school P.E. classes and that’s creating a social outlet for them, too.”
Though any parks and recreation manager is likely to receive flack from his bosses or youngsters’ parents, even hot-headed critics in the community, the brightly colored posters that cover the back of his office door and the walls surrounding his desk show he clearly has the most important stamp of approval: huge glittery letters proclaim, “Mr. Jimmy, You Rock!”
Pictured atop the tower that overlooks Marathon Community Park’s tennis courts, softball, baseball and soccer fields are (l-r) Recreation Specialist Meghan Heaps, Parks and Recreation Manager Jimmy Schmidt, Recreation Specialist Ali Adams and Eduardo Aldana of Park Maintenance. Not pictured is Skate Park Attendant Matt Tirillo.