Leisure Services director retires after almost 35 years of service

ST. GEORGE — To sit down and list Kent Perkins’ accomplishments as leisure services director for the city of St. George would wear out your fingers. His success with the department is undeniable, but he is retiring April 28 and the city has named his successor.

In this file photo, 2015 women’s winner Amber Green prepares to cross the finish line at the St. George Marathon. Green took first place out of the women racers and finished 25th overall. St. George Leisure Services director Kent Perkins is retiring at the end of the month. St. George, Utah, Oct. 3, 2015 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News

“It’s been an interesting experience in the long run and a beautiful time in St. George,” Perkins said in a recent interview. “Two things that I feel best about are that I love coming to work every day. Number two is that I work with great people and I love working with those great people.”

Perkins moved to St. George in 1982 after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting. Quickly finding out that jobs in broadcasting were not all that plentiful, he obtained a job with the city.

As his talent for organizing and promoting became evident, Perkins was appointed director of the Leisure Services Department.

The St. George Marathon, which started in 1976 with 58 runners, has grown to include some 8,000 runners under Perkins’ watchful eye as well as being listed as a major marathon by national and world running magazines.

“Kent’s a visionary and he’s an incredible thinker,” St. George City Manager Gary Esplin said. “And dreamer. And schemer. And he has such great ideas as far as the youth of the community and really the ideals of recreation.”

Esplin said Perkins leaves a legacy in St. George that will be felt for a long time.

In this 2016 file photo, Thunder Junction opens to the public. St. George Leisure Services director Kent Perkins, who spearheaded the project, will retire at the end of the month. St. George, Utah, Oct. 8, 2016 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News

“Obviously the Thunder Junction and All Abilities Park was very important to Kent,” Esplin said. “You look at the trail system. It was Kent’s idea when the Quail Creek dike broke in the late ’80s and the dam ran down the Virgin River, that’s when he came up with the idea of getting a grant and putting the first trail in from Bloomington up, and that spawned the 60-plus miles of trails that we have in the city.”

Perkins’ co-workers say they’ll miss him too.

“Working with him in the department has been awesome,” Aaron Metler, coordinator of races and special events, said. “He’s a really good visionary. he always has more ideas than we have time to do.”

Perkins’ assistant, Emilie Pinkelman had nothing but kind words about her boss of three years.

“He will leave a big gap,” Pinkelman said. “He’s been here for 35 years. That’s a long time. He has so much knowledge about all the ins and outs of the city. It’s crazy how much one man can know.”

This 2015 file photo shows a trail in Sand Hollow Wash that is part of the extensive active transportation system area residents enjoy. Leisure Services director Kent Perkins, who conceived of the trail system in St. George, is retiring at the end of the month. St. George, Utah, January 19, 2015 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News

Perkins’ replacement is the former director of the Greater Vallejo (California) Recreation District, Shane McAffee.

“There is some anxiety taking over such an accomplished department – so well recognized and rewarded with awards,” McAffee said.

Esplin said he was excited to work with McAffee.

“I have a lot of confidence in Shane,” Esplin said. “He’ll do a great job.”

Esplin spoke approvingly of the job Perkins has done over the years.

“I actually hired Kent. One of the first department heads that I had the opportunity to hire,” Esplin said. “Nobody can replace Kent Perkins. It’s just that you go on and you have new ideas that Shane will bring to us …. It’s been my privilege to work with Kent. He’s a very honest and dedicated employee. He’s done an incredible job with the city and I’m going to miss him.”

St. George News senior reporter Mori Kessler and videographer Sheldon Demke contributed to this report.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • Caveat_Emptor April 20, 2017 at 8:50 am

    As a recent transplant to Washington County I have to applaud the excellent trail system that was developed to keep walkers, runners, and bicyclists safe from distracted drivers (whose exploits are documented in this paper every day). Unless you are an active outdoors person you may not realize how terrific these trails are.
    While a few more connections could be made to improve the Dixie Drive trail segment, and the Washington City end of Riverside Drive, the vast majority of the network is in place.
    Kent’s legacy is well established, and widely appreciated.

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