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Menlo Park man takes recreation director post in Saratoga

Original post made by Thank You!, Menlo Park: other, on Sep 30, 2007

Interim director takes permanent recreation post in Saratoga
By Michele Tjin - MediaNews
Article Launched: 09/27/2007 02:59:21 PM PDT

With an interest in providing more activities and opportunities for youth and seniors, Michael Taylor is the new face in the Saratoga Recreation Department. The newly named director of recreation and facilities possesses an attitude toward his new job that any employer would be happy to see.

"I can't wait to give back to the community," Taylor said. "As soon as I got here, it felt like home. It was comforting and welcoming. The community felt like a place where I would love to live and work."

Taylor has had a few months already to study and get to know Saratoga better. Taylor, 52, has been working in Saratoga since March as the interim director of recreation. Just recently, he was called to fill in permanently for Joan Pisani, who retired because of illness in August.

For Taylor, the recreation department is an integral service the city provides. Unless residents are reporting a pothole or constructing a house, they have very little reason to deal with the city. But the recreation programs are channels where residents do interact with the city. It's a first point of contact, he said.

"We create community and build quality of life through our programs," he said. Taylor plans on assessing the needs of the community, specifically targeting those who are not participating in the city's recreation programs. This data will set the department's strategic planning direction for the next five years. Taylor is also looking for more ways for young people to be active, whether with martial arts, dance or other activities, as a way to address health and obesity rates in children and teens. "We're the ones who can take the lead in this social issue," he said.

Taylor also has other demographics in mind. The population of Saratoga is graying, and there is an influx of immigrants. Taylor said he wants to make sure the city's programs have what seniors and newcomers are looking for.

It's no surprise that Taylor is working to increase recreational opportunities for others. He has been a lifelong believer in being active. His office has constant reminders of his passion for the outdoors; there are photos of him snowboarding and rope climbing. Before coming to Saratoga, he was the senior recreation supervisor in Menlo Park.

Taylor also ran his own gymnastics center for nine years in Minnesota, his home state. In fact, gymnastics is like a side job for him. A former gymnast, he has tapped into his gift for teaching and is a coach for other coaches. He is a national staff member of USA Gymnastics, where he has written books for the organization, and teaches a safety course. In August, he received an award from USA Gymnastics during the national championships held in San Jose, where he was recognized for his contributions.

"This is all part of recreation," he said. "I love what I do."

During his short time here, Saratoga has already given him plenty to chew on. He is working on the development of the North Campus and is looking forward to working collaboratively with such groups as the Friends of Saratoga Libraries and the Saratoga Historical Foundation and Museum. He credited his predecessor, Pisani, for building the department to what it is now and said he's glad to take charge of a dedicated crew.

"We're all on the same team," he said. "They all do their jobs and are committed to serving the Saratoga residents. (They were) open to the new guy coming in."

Comments (7)

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Posted by another watcher
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 3, 2007 at 8:04 am

Not only does the police department have retention problems, but I know that the recreation has lost a DOZEN of its top people, including the director and two managers in the last year too! What is going on??? Maybe they are all going to work at the new city dance program at the theater.

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Posted by Oh Please!
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 3, 2007 at 11:08 am

This can't be one of the City's "top people." Mr. Taylor's handling of the Bayfront Park issue was poor; his handling of the Sheeper Pool take over was poor; his handling of the Belle Haven after school program was poor.

Why is it so difficult to find qualified managers for our recreation program?

Give someone in the 10 years out of college demographics a chance. No more tired recreation managers who have been in the business for so many years, they only live to please the council.

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Posted by swimmer
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 5, 2007 at 2:38 pm

Came across this post and just had to comment. I credit Mr. Taylor for saving Burgess Pool. If not for some creative outside-the-box thinking, the City would have built a pool they could not have afforded to operate. Tim Sheeper is doing an outstanding job providing a quality aquatics program for almost no cost to the city. I think Dave Bosch and Mr. Taylor deserve our thanks. No wonder they both left this hostility.

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Posted by also a swimmer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 9, 2007 at 3:33 pm

The pool is being run well, and I doubt the city could have done so well based on past performance. However, it is not true that Sheeper runs the pool at almost no cost to the city. He doesn't pay any rent! The residents are still paying for the $7 million facility and he only has to pay for some of the operational expenses. That is a shameful sweetheart deal (no competitive bids).

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Posted by Watching and weeping
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 9, 2007 at 4:33 pm

1. Mike Taylor did not orchestrate the $7 million Aquatics Center give-away. The WeeWinklerJellinsDuboc team did. Taylor was in the middle of a very smelly business.

2. David Boesch -- deserves our thanks? What a joke, and a very bad one at that. He not only is to blame for allowing the WWJD team to deceive the public about the city's financial situation, he also can be blamed for the fiasco in the police department for his hiring decisions and for pretending that the unprecedented exodus of veteran police officers didn't represent a crisis. I shudder at the thought that he will probably be our next county manager.

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Posted by Rec watcher
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 9, 2007 at 6:17 pm

Mike Taylor authored a staff report that showed that the Sheeper arrangement was a very bad deal compared to the operations in other cities. The report also indicated that most cities, Palo Alto for example, were breaking even on their pool operations. Some were making enough money so that pool revenues could subsidize other programs!

The council ignored that report as it didn't support their plan, plus no one wanted to explain how MP's aquatic operations could be so unprofitable compared to those of similar communities.

Don't blame Mike. He was in the middle of a tough situation He is a great guy with a lot of heart, and he served the city to the best of his ability for many years. I hope he is happy in Saratoga.

Like this comment
Posted by Recreation needs help
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 10, 2007 at 1:11 pm

Recreation is in dire straights. I dont recognize too many people any more. Its a shame to watch that slide.

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