By Jacob Sturm
Sometimes it just takes looking for opportunities to define a successful career.
For Mustang’s new Parks and Recreation Director, Nic Bailey, that started through his interest in sports.
Bailey, who graduated from East Central University in Ada and played for the school’s Golf team before serving as the coach for the program, was working two jobs on top of his coaching duties and began looking for new opportunities.
That’s when the City of Ada made a proposal to take over the city softball complex from a volunteer group and had posted a job for the management of the facility.
“I was like, ‘Well, I played all sports growing up. I’ve been coordinating the budget here as the head golf coach and stuff like that,’” Bailey said.
He applied for the position and found the environment to be a good fit. Before long, that job started Bailey down a path toward the pool work and park maintenance work he fell in love with.
“I had vast knowledge of sports,” Bailey said. “Softball, Baseball. I grew up playing all of that stuff as well as being a collegiate golfer after that. So, I found it pretty interesting and applied with the degree. It was just a good fit for me and I kind of fell in love with it over those years.”
Eventually, Bailey made the move to Mustang under Justin Battles in 2009 and immediately filled the Sports Coordinator position the city had been trying to find. In the role, Bailey oversaw working with youth volunteer groups that run most youth sports, operating any adult sports the city ran (Softball, Flag Football and Basketball), coordinated the 5-year-old and 6-year-old basketball programs and was in charge of the employees who did the field maintenance work on the sports complex.
Bailey eventually applied and earned the role of Assistant Parks and Recreation Director in 2020, where he worked under the direction of Jean Heasley who retired June 2 of this year.
“Leading up to the assistant job, once I got it, the best part of that was that allowed me to get into a little more of the nuts and bolts of our budget and working with the other budgets within our department other than just the sports budget and parks budget,” Bailey said. “I think just me being able to have the ability to get the vast knowledge of all that and how everything kind of works was a great opportunity.”
Mustang City Manager, Tim Rooney, sent out an application internally for the position once Heasley made her intentions of retirement clear.
Bailey was the only internal applicant for the role.
“The one thing I think we do really well here in Mustang is we have good successive planning in all of our departments where I would say in most instances we’ve identified who the next person would be in line,” Rooney said. “…Obviously he’s familiar with our organization and our community and he was the right fit for the job.”
An opportunity to become the new Parks and Recreation Director doesn’t come around often. Bailey attributed his consideration for the position to the people who came before him (Battles and Heasley).
“I’ve had really good role models and mentors,” Bailey said. “Having both of those (role models) as mentors, and teaching me and helping me learn and see how they handle situations, really I just hope to take the best of those two, combine them and continue doing what we do as well as we do it and have done it in the past.”
Although there aren’t many new things on the list of Parks and Recreation events right now, that doesn’t deter Bailey or the Parks and Recreation Department. Bailey currently is planning to take what the department has and build on it.
That could include helping get current events bigger and better.
“In the world of Parks and Recreation, there’s always new things popping up here and there that you may look at and go, ‘Hey, we could do that. We should try that.’”
Bailey is also a member of the Oklahoma Recreation and Parks Society, similar to most of the staff in the Mustang Parks and Recreation Department. That opens up communications with other cities to see how they do similar events Mustang consistently does with their unique facilities.
At the end of the day, the Mustang community makes a big impact on decisions like Bailey’s.
“Just the people of Mustang, not only the people that I work with, but the citizens, made it a really easy choice to stay here and work for the number of years that I’ve had,” Bailey said. “When Jean had decided to retire and that I wanted to become the Director, it was a really easy choice.”
“…It’s more having to do with the people in this community and the people that I work with that made it a really easy decision,” Bailey said.