Hall ready to take on Parks and Rec director position

By HASKEL BURNS,

It shouldn’t be too big of a transition for Brian Hall when he officially steps into his new role as the City of Petal Parks and Recreation director at the end of this month.

Hall, who currently serves as the department’s associate director, has spent the last 14 months or so working with director Tom Hardges Jr. – who will officially retire Aug. 28 – to learn the ropes around the city’s recreational facilities.

“There’s some things that I’ve implemented and changed, but nothing huge,” Hall said. “There’s a lot of things that Tom already had implemented that still apply and are still good.

“We’re waiting on what we get approved for this next fiscal year budget, and we’ll do some more projects then. Right now, we’re doing stuff that doesn’t cost much.”

That includes remodeling a kitchen at the athletic department office on Mozingo Drive, as well as installing better drainage at the Optimist fields.

“We’ve got a lot of painting to do,” Hall said. “We put the football and cheer out at Barrontown (Community Center), so we’re going to fix the press box and stuff up there. It’s just a lot of construction stuff going on to make things more user-friendly.”

As far as the bigger projects – pending approval and budget limitations – Hall hopes to be able to upgrade the drainage at the fourplex field behind the parks and recreation office on Hillcrest Drive.

The department also is looking at adding an infant/ toddler play section at Hinton Park, which was discussed last month by officials from the Petal Excel By 5 Coalition, Petal Area Chamber of Commerce and the Coleman Center for Families and Children. Possible pieces of equipment for the proposed area are a Smart Play Loft for children ages 2-5 years old and a Smart Play Nook that offers 28 different activities for children ages 6-23 months.

Other possible ideas include shade structures, seating for parents, a market café, a Little Tykes Treehouse and a swing area.

“I’m excited (to take over),” Hall said. “Josh (Young, assistant director) and I have a good working relationship, and we’re going to try to take things to the next level here.

“We’re coming up with different ideas, and seeing what we can afford to do and what the city can afford to do. We’re making our one-year plan, our five-year plan, our 10-year plan and our 15-year plan. Hopefully most of it happens, but reality is that it can’t all happen, so we’re going to do what we can.”

Hall, who is originally from Maine, served 16 years in the U.S. Army as a tank commander and recruiter before working as assistant service manager at Toyota of Hattiesburg and Petro Nissan. He has lived in Petal since November 2011 and took over early last year as associate director of parks and recreation. 

He was approved by the Petal Board of Aldermen as the department’s director at the board’s July 17 meeting.

“It’s great,” Hall said. “I’m happy with a lot of the projects we’ve got done so far, and we’ve got a lot more coming.

“The board of aldermen, the mayor and (Forrest County District 3 Supervisor) Burkett Ross have been really supportive.”

Mayor Hal Marx said he has no doubt that Hall will be successful in his new role.

“Brian brings a lot of energy and new ideas to the job as director of parks and recreation,” he said. “He will continue in the footsteps of Tom Hardges, and continue to raise our city’s recreational opportunities to the next level.

“I am very excited about the future of that department.”

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