Richard Soisson named parks chief Acting director replaces ousted Little


The Carroll commissioners yesterday named Richard J. Soisson director of the county Recreation and Parks Department, replacing John P. Little, whom they fired in March.

Mr. Soisson, 48, of Finksburg, had been been acting director since then and assistant director since July 1991.

His promotion is effective July 1, when he will receive a $4,524 pay raise, Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said. Mr. Soisson's salary will be $47,346, the commissioner said. The raise will include a $1,000 increase all full-time county employees will receive July 1.

The assistant director's job has been eliminated, said Micki Smith, deputy director of the Department of Administrative Services.

"Richard has been very active in the department's administration for a number of years," Commissioner Donald I. Dell said in a press release. "This experience, along with his creative initiative, are the main reasons we have chosen to appoint him to this post."

Mr. Soisson began working for the county in August 1976 as manager of Piney Run Park in South Carroll. In 1984, he became chief of parks and facilities.

Mr. Lippy said the commissioners did not consider other candidates for the job.

"[Mr. Soisson] was the natural for it," he said.

Mr. Lippy said one of Mr. Soisson's challenges will be "to improve morale" in the department.

Staff members said they would support him in the job, Mr. Lippy said.

Mr. Little, who was director for 13 years and earned $55,119, was fired because he cheated on his time cards during the last two years, said individuals close to the situation. Mr. Little has never publicly responded to those allegations.

The Recreation and Parks Department has four full-time employees and an annual budget of $1.9 million. The department works with 21 volunteer recreation councils and eight sports leagues.

Robert Bower, chairman of the county's Recreation and Parks Board, said he was pleased about Mr. Soisson's promotion.

Mr. Bower, a board member since 1989, decribed Mr. Soisson as a competent and flexible manager. "He listens to all sides," Mr. Bower said.

One of Mr. Soisson's challenges will be to find a suitable site for a public shooting range in the county, Mr. Bower said. The board has been working to find a site for several years, but has encountered public opposition in northern and southern parts of Carroll.

Mr. Lippy said the new director also will have to help take care of the county's "new gem" -- Greenway Gardens, an arboretum and greenhouse in South Carroll that is owned by the state.

The commissioner said he would like Mr. Soisson to monitor the finances of county recreation councils and "make the most of our recreational dollar."

Mr. Soisson believes county recreational facilities should be as self-supporting as possible, he said.

"I feel the department has been fairly successful in generating enough revenue to not only sustain programs, but to explore new activities," he said. "This kind of growth enhances our quality of life here in Carroll. I'm looking forward to continuing in this direction."

Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said in the press release, "Recreation activities are great tourism events. The revenues generated from such activities are a boost to our economic development."

Mr. Soisson helped develop the nature center concept in Carroll. The county opened a second nature center this month, Bear Branch Nature Center at the Hashawha Environmental Appreciation Center outside Westminster.

"We have a good department. It's innovative," Mr. Soisson said.

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