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Parks director takes recreation to new level

R. Stephen Catlett

R. Stephen Catlett

April 29, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - R. Stephen "Steve" Catlett will tell you the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks and Recreation Board's success is due more to the committed staff than to his leadership of the organization since 1976.

The park board was a fledgling organization when Catlett became its executive director. It had no steady stream of revenue and plenty of financial troubles, he said.

In 1987, the initial round of enabling hotel-motel tax legislation was approved by the state Legislature, Catlett said.

A larger part of the park board's budget now comes from the tax on reserved conference ballrooms and hotel and motel rooms than from property taxes, Catlett, 53, said.

And the park board augments that money.

"We have generated in the past decade more than 70 percent of our operating budget," Catlett said.

Catlett said the park board's directors and staff have, through a hands-on approach, raised money through annual basketball tournaments, the board's annual June Jubilee at War Memorial Park and other initiatives.

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"I think there are people on our board that truly want what's best for the county," Catlett said.

Work has included the board's successful effort to assume responsibility for maintaining War Memorial Park in 1987.

"We knew we could turn that (park) into the pride of Berkeley County again," Catlett said.

Then, on Jan. 1, 1994, the Berkeley County Commission turned over to the parks board land that once housed a poor farm that served some of the county's neediest residents.

That addition of Poor House Farm Park off Tuscarora Pike west of Martinsburg doubled the amount of recreational acreage that was under the board's supervision, Catlett said.

A little more than seven years later, the Berkeley 2000 Recreation Center opened and now is being expanded, Catlett said.

"Eventually we hope to add an indoor pool to the south," Catlett said. He said he also would like to add a two-court indoor tennis facility.

Eight years after an attempt to enclose the War Memorial Park swimming pool failed, Catlett expressed confidence the county would one day have an indoor pool.

"It's going to happen, it's just a matter of when," he said.

The park board's budget will get additional hotel-motel tax money as the result of recent legislation, but Catlett said he doesn't anticipate the staff and board members will quit working hard.

"I've been fortunate to work with a lot of good people. It's been a team effort," he said.

And he said he's got people "who are just dedicated, do whatever it takes to get the job done."

A few political leaders have helped the cause of recreation, Catlett said. He particularly noted the support of County Commissioner Ronald K. Collins, Martinsburg City Council members Max Parkinson and Greg Wachtel, Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon and state Sen. John Unger.

"I get far too much credit," Catlett said. "It's been a shared thing with a lot of good people."




Q&A



Name: R. Stephen Catlett

Hometown: Hedgesville, W.Va.

Occupation: Executive director, Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks and Recreation Board

What was your proudest moment?: He said it was the dedication of the Berkeley 2000 Recreation Center in 2002

Whom do you most admire, and why?: His wife, Shelly. "She has the ability to put things in perspective and keep me focused on what really matters in life."

What is the best piece of advice you ever received and who gave it to you?: "Just be honest with people." He said this was first told to him by his father and reinforced by his wife.

What is the next goal you would like to achieve?: Development of an indoor pool facility and continue to increase acreage and facilities for recreation in Berkeley County.

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