August 19, 2014 at 5:05 AM
Editor’s Note: This continues the Meet the Leaders profile series in The Alternative Press of South Plainfield. The objective is to provide our readers the opportunity to hear from South Plainfield’s leaders in government, public safety, commerce and other areas, regarding South Plainfield’s present and future outlook, their background and what they enjoy doing in their private life. In order to keep the format consistent, The Alternative Press presented each individual with the same five questions. We are publishing their answers unedited.
Meet the Leaders – Kevin Hughes, Director of Recreation
I grew up in Cedar Grove, NJ, went to Paul VI High School in Clifton then went to Fordham University for a year before transferring to Kean College where I played baseball and graduated with a Bachelors Degree and a Health and Physical Education Teaching Certificate. I got my first teaching job at Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child in Summit before moving on to Indian Hills High School in 1996.
My wife, Cheryl, was born and raised in South Plainfield and after we got married in 1993 we decided to raise our family here. We have been blessed with 3 amazing daughters: Shannon (18), Meghan (16), and Caitlin (14).
I joined the Recreation Department in June of 2005 as the Assistant Director. The Director at the time, Mike English, had decided that he was going to retire and wanted to bring on someone to mentor and transition into the job. I was teaching Physical Education and coaching Football, Basketball, and Baseball at Indian Hills High School in Oakland, NJ the previous 9 years. I loved it there but it was 60 miles from home and the commute was wearing on me to say the least. When I learned about the opportunity in the Recreation Department in my hometown I decided to apply. I made it through the application process and was the Assistant Director to Mike English from June 1, 2005 through Dec 31, 2005. I became Acting Director January 1, 2006 and was named Director of Recreation in August of 2006.
What inspired you to pursue a career in Recreation?
I decided to transition from the teaching world to the Recreation Department after first talking with my wife and realizing the commute along with the hours of coaching was becoming quite difficult. I then talked with several people from the town, some that had served on the Recreation Commission, and a couple of them said “you’d be perfect for that job, you should apply”. My ambition was always to become as Administrator of some sort and saw the job as an incredible opportunity so I went ahead and applied for the position.
What are the biggest opportunities and challenges facing South Plainfield today?
What I strive for as the Director of Recreation is to continue to build on the amazing programs and enhance the facilities the town has offered all these years. The bar was set very high by the previous and current Borough Employees and I want to be able to keep it up there. The best example of that is the PAL expansion that was done a few years prior to my arrival and I wanted to be a part of something that big. When I conducted my first Recreation Committee meeting in January of 2006, the President of the Commission, Bill Cochrane, asked me what plans or “dreams” do I have for the Department. I answered that with bringing a turf field to the Borough. 3 years later after receiving a grant from the county we opened the gates to Memorial Field behind the PAL and I take great pride watching the children of South Plainfield play on that field.
What are the top priorities of you “to do list” as Director of Recreation?
The “dreams” don’t stop there. I would love to acquire additional grant monies and bring lights to Memorial Field, bring additional turf fields to the Borough, including Ponytail Park and continue to enhance our parks. We have put in 5 new play structures during my years here and would like to do a few more.
What do you do in your spare time?
My spare time consists of watching or coaching my children play their various sports, I absolutely love it.
Five words that describe South Plainfield: Hard-working, caring, resilient, supportive, and strong. I have said numerous times after being a part of some great fundraisers that No town rallies around a worthy cause like South Plainfield, it is truly a special place to raise a family.