New Recreation Facilities Director
Town Hall Theatre Manager Mark Metzger has stepped off the Town Hall stage and into the new role of Recreation Facilities Director for Washington Township Recreation.
It’s a role Metzger has been preparing for during 20 years of management at Town Hall and, more recently, during his leadership with the recreation department’s summer camp program and holiday lighting festival, Woodland Lights.
“Mark’s many years managing all aspects of our theatre program have provided him with a well-rounded skill set that can be applied anywhere,” said Township Administrator Jesse Lightle. "He sizes up a program, staffs it with the best people, and provides exceptional customer service – whether it’s theatre, Woodland Lights or camp. He has taken all of these programs to the next level.”
In his new role, Metzger directs all recreation department programs, including sports, fitness, aquatics, summer camps, theatre, art and special events. Programs are offered for all ages and include the Rec West Enrichment Center for older adults.
“I’m excited about the potential,” Metzger said. “Recreation services have undergone a period of enormous expansion under the leadership of Dave Paice, our retiring director. Given the tremendous support of our community, the growth opportunities for our facilities and program offerings is immense.”
As director, Metzger plans to step back and review what the recreation department has done well, identify community needs, and develop a master plan that responds to them. “We’ll be reaching out. I want to engage community members in our evolving role, to ask what them how their recreation center can best serve them,” he said.
“I come from a collaborative art form where we are the sum of our parts, so I’m looking forward to taking a team approach to our recreational programming. We have a creative and committed staff, along with new challenges and opportunities,” said Metzger.
His past collaborations have included schools, businesses and public organizations such as the library, park district and CW History. “Partnering and collaborating with other organizations has been a fulfilling part of my job at Town Hall. I’d like to bring that to other aspects of the recreation department because I’ve seen the benefits,” he said. “We’re at our best when we’re working together with all of the other organizations in our community.”
As theatre manager, Metzger has become involved in the community through activities with the Heart of Centerville merchants’ association and the Americana Festival where he has coordinated the township’s recreational activities, overseen the float, and served on the Grand Marshal’s Committee.
“I feel invested in the community. This really is our home,” said Metzger, a native of Wooster, Ohio whose wife, Anne, was raised in Washington Township.
A graduate of the Wright State University Department of Theatre, he joined Town Hall Theatre in 1996 in a part-time capacity and was promoted to a full-time role in 2001. He also served a stint as company manager for the California Theatre Center in the San Francisco Bay area where he directed plays part time for the Peninsula Youth Theatre. Previous to joining the township, he worked in a variety of capacities for Dayton Playhouse.
Metzger lives on a small farm where he keeps a garden and raises heritage hogs, turkeys and chickens with his wife, a clinical pharmacist, and their two children, ages three and one.
When Recreation Facilities Director Dave Paice was hired in 1988, the advertisement for his job could have read:
Wanted: Director for community recreation center that has no staff, no pool, no members and no programming
During his first weeks on the job, Paice was handed the keys to a former YMCA with just one gym and a meeting room, set on a small plot of land. “I vividly remember standing on the front steps. When the township administrator handed me the keys, he said ‘here, do something.’”
And he did. Paice, who retires in September, helped create a recreation department that serves all ages with programs in sports, fitness, aquatics, summer camps, theatre, art, after-school care, senior programming and special events.
“Dave is responsible for the recreation department in its current form,” said Township Administrator Jesse Lightle. “As the first director, he’s guided a tremendous number of expansion projects and shown great commitment to serving a variety of recreational interests.”
Washington Township’s 36-acre recreation campus now includes two main buildings with gymnasiums, pools, climbing wall, fitness center, theater, game room, meeting space and a kitchen. Off site, Town Hall is used for theater programming.
Every project has paved the way for new recreational programming, whether it’s the community’s first public pool, a new climbing wall, or the renovation of Rec West for senior programming. The same is true of Countryside Park which was pieced together through trades, donations and purchases to create outdoor space for, among other things, summer camp and the popular holiday festival Woodland Lights.
“I feel good when I drive by. I feel very satisfied with what’s been accomplished, especially when you look at where we started,” said Paice. “I was fortunate to have a job where I could literally grow the recreation center from a seed. That really is what has kept my interest all of these years. Not many people get the opportunity to take a program from ground level.”
Paice credits the expansion of recreation programming to talented, long-term employees, a supportive community, and trustees who have responded to the public’s interests.
“When I came here, the community was eager for recreation programs,” he said. A group of citizens already had approached elected officials to request that the township open a recreation center and a recreation levy had been passed. The department operates today at the same modest .7 mills of property tax that it did in 1993, an amount lower than the original 1.5-mill levy.
Taxpayer support has never been better, he added. “I’m most proud that support for recreation levies has always been strong. The percentage of residents voting in favor of levies has risen over the years. That shows that people like what they have here and feel they are getting a good value for their money.”
Paice plans to spend his time in retirement teaching SCUBA diving, a sport he has instructed during his years with the township. He and wife, Kathy, also are looking forward to spending time with their first grandchild who will be born this fall.
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