Hampton rec director moving on after 25 years

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Hampton rec director moving on after 25 years

By Max Sullivan

Hampton Union, February 22, 2018

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]

HAMPTON -- Climbing a ladder during a snowstorm to help an elderly woman get inside her locked home was never part of Dyana Martin’s job description as Hampton’s recreation director.

Working with community members was a big part of what drew Martin to the position, though. Martin’s Program Coordinator René Boudreau said the snowstorm 10 years ago was just one instance when his boss went out of her way to help someone while on the job.

The storm picked up midway through a recreation department senior citizen meeting that day. Martin drove the seniors home in the bus and promised to get them back to their cars the next day. The woman locked from her home had misplaced her keys, and Martin climbed through the snowfall to the second-floor sliding door to help her get inside.

“She’s willing to do anything to help people,” said Boudreau. “Everybody in the door gets the same treatment even if she doesn’t know them.”

Martin is leaving the department after 25 years, the last 23 as recreation director. Closing the door on her department is “bittersweet,” she said. Her last day will be March 11, though she said her final day in the office will be March 9. She is taking a job with Ultiplay Parks and Playgrounds, where she will sell playground equipment in New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts.

Martin said her phone “blew up” with calls and texts from locals saying they were sad to see her leave last week. Her Facebook post announcing her departure had 141 comments wishing her the best of luck.

“It meant a lot to me,” said Martin. “I always think of these people as my friends and part of my world, and it was awesome to see they all felt the same way about me.”

Selectmen said earlier this month Martin was leaving for a higher paying job and cited it as an example why the town needed to consider raising salaries for some town employees. Other recreation directors, they have said, make significantly more money in surrounding towns.

Martin declined to comment on her salary, which was $63,097.60 in 2016 according to the town report from that year. Exeter’s recreation director earned $79,086 the same year, the 2016 Exeter town report states.

Selectmen Chairman Jim Waddell said raises need to be considered to ensure the town can “keep our good people” employed. Selectman Rusty Bridle said Martin is leaving “some hard shoes to fill” and that the town was losing “a real asset.”

Despite the new job, Martin will still live locally and be part of community groups like Experience Hampton and the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce’s Seafood Festival.

Martin joined the recreation department first as program coordinator. She became interested in working for a parks and recreation department while a junior at the University of New Hampshire. She said the field seemed perfect for her background in athletics and camp counseling, coupled with her love of community.

“The light bulb kind of went on,” said Martin. “It’s a perfect niche because you’re helping people and you’re making their quality of life better.”

Martin’s staff said her passion for helping community members has cemented a strong bond between her and residents. Brandon Mattison, an operations assistant, said community members constantly come through the department’s second-floor space in the town office building, from parents to business owners to senior citizens.

Another operations assistant, Liz Premo, also knew Martin as a source while writing for the Atlantic News and Hampton Union and called her a “great loss to the town.”

Martin is proud of the work her department has done over the years, from maintaining and upgrading facilities like Tuck Field to holding camp for kids to offering fun events and trips for senior citizens. The job also included managing the town’s three parking lots at the beach.

The most difficult part of Martin’s work has been acquiring funding for capital expenditures, often sought through warrant articles rather than in the budget. She recalled how long it took to get funding to upgrade the tennis courts at Tuck Field, the courts closed and in disrepair for about two or three years in the mid-2000s.

Supportive residents found ways to help Martin’s department, though. In 2007, a citizens petition by Charlie Preston passed at Town Meeting to establish the Hampton Recreation Infrastructure Fund, which receives 20 percent of the town’s parking lot revenue. The funds are used to go towards recreation infrastructure projects, and the tennis courts were the first facilities to benefit from the funds.

Martin is hopeful a warrant article will pass at Town Meeting March 13 to fund improvements to Kids Kingdom Playground, the first playground whose installation she oversaw as director five months after she was promoted to director in 1996. The park was just open space when she first arrived, and now the park’s equipment has exceeded the typical playground lifespan of about 14 years, she said.

As for Martin’s successor, she said she is endorsing Boudreau, with whom she has worked for the last 18 years. Boudreau said he is applying for the job.

“I hope it’s René,” said Martin. “He definitely wants it, and he’s definitely earned it.”

Martin said the thank-yous from residents have piled up over the years. Martin said her office has many thank you cards and pictures from families with kids who have enjoyed her department’s programs.

“It always warms your heart every time someone says thank you,” said Martin. “This is a great community to work and live in.”

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