Piva named interim parks and recreation director
Town Administrator Bruce Keiser confirmed last Friday, March 2, that Piva has been named interim director of the parks and recreation department. Piva, who is currently a sergeant with the Jamestown Police Department, will start work in his new position on March 12.
Keiser expressed confidence in Piva's ability and qualifications. He spoke "at great length" with Piva and other islanders about his involvement with youth, and participation in the town and sports. "All have given him rave reviews," Keiser said, adding that Piva would serve in an interim capacity at least until the early fall. "I'm confident that we have the right man for the job."
Piva inquired about the position when it became vacant last fall after the retirement of former director Matthew Bolles. "It was Chief Tighe's idea, really," Piva admitted. Police Chief Thomas Tighe asked Piva if he would be interested in applying for the job, which set the wheels in motion.
Piva expressed excitement for the new position, and anticipation for working with the recreation staff. "They are great people who know the system and will be a great help to me," Piva said.
Keiser noted that the town would use existing recreation staff, Ron Parfitt, recreation clerk Cyndee Reppe and Teen Program Coordinator Melissa Minto, for duties in the recreation department, rather than hire an assistant director.
Piva's admiration for the recreation center stems from his childhood memories. "I feel honored to be able to go back and work there," he said. He even remembered "the same smell" the center has now as when he was young and participating in activities there.
"I remember as a kid, Don Gillis was the recreation director," Piva recalled. He talked about his experience in the boxing club at the age of 15, when the team worked its way up to the junior Olympics. "It was a confidence builder," he added.
Sitting in the conference room at the police station earlier this week, Piva also recalled his father, William Sr., to whom the room was dedicated. He expressed admiration for his father and the contributions he made to the community. "He would volunteer on Friday nights to open up the school just so kids could have a place to go," Piva remembered. "He knew kids hanging out caused trouble."
Piva has taken the lessons he learned from his father and uses them to build good communication with young people today. "I pull up alongside a group of kids on the corner and ask what they're up to," he said. The answer that there's nothing to do and they are bored tells him there's a need for opportunities, Piva noted.
Piva described himself as "a sports guy," working with regional high schools as a baseball umpire and basketball referee. He also volunteers as a Little League umpire, and will begin officiating at college football games in the fall. He talks and jokes around with the young athletes on the court and in the fields. "It's a good way of keeping in touch with the kids, and good for them to see a local policeman involved," he commented.
His experience for the position mainly revolves around sports, but Piva was quick to acknowledge a larger role played by the recreation department in the community, connecting with a variety of local organizations. "The center belongs to the whole community. A recreation department should focus on programs and events that benefit everyone."
Piva hopes to establish a strong working relationship with other town departments and the schools. He also hopes to create a solid focus for the best way recreation dollars should be spent. One immediate focus he mentioned should be maintenance of the ball fields, "which have been in horrendous shape," adding that good maintenance would "make sure that kids aren't getting hurt."
"I want to do more with seniors," he continued. Piva recognizes many people are shut-ins, and wants to connect with the senior center to offer programs that encourage people to come out and participate.
Piva also said he looked forward to being a part of the implementation of the Ft. Getty master plan. "Where else can you enjoy such a great place for such a low fee?" he said.
Piva left the island after high school to go into the army where he served for six years. Then upon completion of the police academy, he was posted for two years as police officer at the Newport Naval Station. In 1985, he returned to Jamestown.
Piva has served on the Jamestown police force for almost 22 years, and will be eligible for retirement in another three years. Quitting the force to take another job so close to retirement would not be "economically feasible," he said. Also, Piva has agreed to be available as a police officer for special events and emergencies, even though he will no longer have scheduled shifts at the station.
"This is an unbelievable place," Piva brimmed with island pride, "I am happy to give back to the community."
Piva encourages anyone who has ideas for new community programs or suggestions for improvement to existing programs to contact him by e-mail at wpiva@ jamestownri.com. Keith Anderson, current assistant director of the recreation department, announced his resignation, according to Keiser. Anderson leaves on Friday, March 9, for a new position as assistant recreation director in Yarmouth, Mass., which has a resident population of 25,000 and a larger recreation program.