Recreation director announces retirement
Town Parks and Recreation Director Matthew Bolles has announced his retirement, effective Nov. 10, to pursue other activities, especially creative pursuits as a musician, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser told the Town Council Monday.
Council members in recent weeks have been discussing their views about the need to review and possibly revise recreation policies, mainly as they pertain to use of the town's Community Center, especially by the Jamestown Community Theatre as well as other recreation entities and segments of the town. Some council statements have been taken to reflect negatively on Bolles, but several residents have issued statements about the respect they have for Bolles as an administrator, as a performer, and as a person.
The councilors were scheduled Monday to set a special meeting at which to discuss their concerns. They had said they were prepared to act in executive session because some of their discussion might have reflected on Bolles' job performance.
Instead, after the retirement announcement, the councilors talked about how important and helpful to the town it would be if Bolles would agree to take part in creating a new committee or commission to oversee the operations of the town's parks and recreation department.
In a related matter, the councilors said they never planned or intended to discuss in executive session the matters of policy and practices of the recreation department, such as those related to the use of the Community Center by the theater group and others. Norma Willis, a former town councilwoman, had told them that while job performance was an appropriate executive session topic, policy must be discussed in public.
Keiser said that Bolles told him Friday that he had decided to retire. "He said his mind is made up," Keiser said in reference to his attempt to derail Bolles' retirement plan.
Bolles did not attend Monday's council meeting.
Keiser praised Bolles for the expansion of the recreation department and many programs under his tenure. "He is a very pleasant, cooperative, and thoughtful individual," Keiser said.
The town administrator added, "He said he has been considering for some time what he most wants to do with the rest of his life." Keiser said Bolles is well known as an accomplished musician and has creative capabilities and skills in several areas of the arts.
Bolles is known locally for his participation also in local theater, as well as his work for the town the past 17 years. Keiser noted that Bolles is eligible for retirement under the municipal system in which the town takes part.
Councilman William Kelly was the first to voice hope that Bolles would consider being involved with the volunteer board that the council intends to create as soon as possible for development of the parks and recreation department.
Council President David Long said he has been distressed by the way that Bolles' performance has been discussed publicly. "It's not the way any town employee is to be treated," Long noted. "The least we can do is to give our employees the confidence that their performance and recommendations, via the town administrator, will be given every consideration and every benefit."
The issues were raised a few months ago by Councilman Michael Schnack, who wanted to know about policies and practices regarding the use of the Community Center. Reports of his concerns were interpreted by some people, and possibly incorrectly reported in the media, as criticisms of Bolles and of the local theater group. Those reports spurred several statements by residents in support of Bolles and the theater group. Also triggered was some criticism directed at Schnack for raising his questions.
Schnack said at the Sept. 11 council meeting that he was not attacking the theater group, and that he supports the theater operations. He was questioning practices as they applied both to the theater group and to all other users of the Community Center, he said. "I do not," he said, "have a vendetta against anyone, and not against Matt Bolles," as charged by at least one resident.
The council assigned Keiser to complete for its next meeting in early October his recommendations for a new recreation commission, and to include plans to recruit volunteer applicants from which the council would choose seven to serve on the board. Keiser's draft plan provided for five members.
Known especially as a bass player and singer, Bolles has been active in the foundation of the traditional and bluegrass music scene in South County for many years. He has performed with numerous ensembles including the Fiasco Brothers, Banana Bunkhouse Boys, Bluegrass Special, and the South County Rounders. He has also performed in theater, especially musical productions in Jamestown, and in other local venues.