The City of Lenoir has hired Phil Harper to serve as the next Director for the City's Parks & Recreation Department. Harper was born and raised in Lenoir, and he has more than 24 years of experience in the Parks & Recreation field.
Candidates had to complete a multi-step interview process, which included completing a written exercise and budget exercise, giving a community presentation, and completing a formal interview. City Manager Scott Hildebran said management had several great candidates to choose from, and Mr. Harper was the best match for what the City needed in a new director.
"Phil Harper is from Lenoir, he knows many people in the community and the parks and recreation profession, and he loves the city," City Manager Hildebran said. "He has more than two decades of experience working in Parks and Recreation across North Carolina, and he even worked for Lenoir two different times in the past. I believe Mr. Harper will be a great addition to the City, and he'll be able to keep our parks and recreation programs moving forward."
Mr. Harper said he was very excited to return to his hometown and join the City of Lenoir.
"I’ve been looking for opportunities to return to Lenoir the past few years, and the timing is perfect," Mr. Harper said. "It’s a dream come true for me to come back home."
Mr. Harper grew up in Lenoir and graduated from Hibriten High School. He earned a Recreation & Leisure Management Degree from North Carolina Central University.
He worked as a Recreation Supervisor for the City of Lenoir Parks & Recreation Department from 1985 to 1991 and as Center Director from 1999 to 2002. Since then, he has worked in parks and recreation departments in many communities across the state including Burke County, Fayetteville/Cumberland County, and the Village of Pinehurst. Most recently, Mr. Harper served as the Parks & Recreation Director for the Town of Pembroke.
During his career, Mr. Harper has managed and maintained open spaces, athletic fields, parks, and recreation centers. He's overseen maintenance of pools and aquatic centers. He's managed and created adult and youth athletic programs and leagues, and he's overseen many youth summer camps.
Mr. Harper also led the effort to install the first splash pad in the Town of Pembroke. He built local support for the project and secured a North Carolina Parks & Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) Grant to build the splash pad, which the town opened last year. Click the following link to read more about the project, Pembroke officials cut ribbon on splash pad, May 23, 2022.
As Parks & Recreation Director in Lenoir, Mr. Harper will be responsible for supervising the department's nearly 20 full-time and more than 60 part-time staff. Mr. Harper will ensure the city's parks, greenway system, and recreation facilities are maintained and he will work to grow Lenoir's recreational and youth sports programs.
Mr. Harper will also manage the City's most recent NC PARTF grant. Last year, Lenoir was awarded a $500,000 grant to build a new splash pad and make other improvements at the Lenoir Aquatic & Fitness Center and Lenoir Rotary Soccer Complex. As mentioned earlier, Mr. Harper has experience installing new splash pads. Click the following link to read more about that grant, City awarded $500K grant for new splash pad, other amenities at Aquatic Center, Soccer Complex, Sept. 1, 2022.
Mr. Harper is an avid tennis player and he served as Varsity Tennis Coach at Hibriten High School from 1996 to 2004. He also taught at Hibriten.
"I’m all about tennis, and I still play competitively today," Mr. Harper said.
In addition to any sport that involves a ball, Mr. Harper said he enjoys the outdoors and mountain biking.
"I love greenway trails and the outdoors," Mr. Harper said. "We have a really nice greenway in Lenoir, and I'm looking forward to spending some time on it again."
Mr. Harper has four children - Phillip Clay, 31, Tavon, 25, Jada, 23, and Annabel, 20. Tavon recently graduated from App State and Jada and Annabel are currently attending East Carolina University. His mother lives in Boone, and his brother lives in Lenoir.
Mr. Harper's first day with the City of Lenoir will be March 6, 2023.
Click the following link for more information about the City's Parks & Recreation facilities and programs, Parks & Recreation.