Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Member Spotlight: Carolyn McKnight

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Member Spotlight: Carolyn McKnight

Article excerpt

Resilient. Tough. Adaptable. Driven by a desire for excellence. These are but a handful of adjectives to describe Carolyn McKnight, superintendent of the East Baton Rouge Recreation and Park Commission (BREC). We can also add "award-winning," as McKnight is set to receive the National Distinguished Professional Award at the 2016 NRPA Annual Conference. Still, it's difficult to come up with a way to adequately encapsulate the awesomeness of this woman who, before endeavoring to raise two boys on her own, was busy serving in the Air Force, earning her master's degree from Texas Christian University and joining the Texas Air National Guard--she retired in 2006 at the rank of colonel, having served for more than 20 years as a reservist. McKnight also boasts an impressive parks and recreation resume--she worked for the city of Dallas Park and Recreation Department from 1985 until January 2012, after which she moved to East Baton Rouge, where she's since served as superintendent. "When I get up in the morning, I don't feel like I am going to work. I feel like I am going to make a difference in people's lives," McKnight says, shooting her formidable ray of uncompromising optimism out into the world. We were fortunate to talk with McKnight, as she and her staff continue to play a critical role in recovery from recent historic flooding in Baton Rouge--following is a portion of our conversation.

Parks & Recreation magazine: What do you feel has been the most impactful lesson you've learned as you arrive at this moment in your career?

Carolyn McKnight: Resiliency during and after crises, service before self, and excellence in all we do are core values driving my steps every day. I learned and had these values reinforced while serving in the Air Force, as a single mother for 20-plus years and as now as the leader of BREC and as a new member of the La Capitale Chapter of The Links, Incorporated. These values have sustained and motivated me to keep moving, regardless of how tough or difficult it might get. It has been a very difficult year for the East Baton Rouge community with the police shooting, the constant and bitter protests that followed, the killing of three law enforcement officers and now the historic flood of 2016. I have seen our community torn apart by racial unrest and brought together by the worst natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy. Before the flood waters came, we were brainstorming and actively engaging law enforcement officials about joint programming to close the racial divide. I have learned that it isn't just a saying--"parks build communities" --we are the most positive entity in a community to help rebuild. …

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