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Hillsborough parks director retiring

Hillsborough County's parks, recreation and conservation director is stepping down.

Mark Thornton, who presided over the department for eight years during a time marked by declining tax revenues, said it's time to try something in the private sector after 31 years as a public parks director.

"I'm ready to try new challenges," Thornton said. 

Parks directors are usually one of the happy, high-public profile jobs in local government. Thornton's tenure was high-profile, alright, largely because he was forced to oversee at-times unpopular changes to after-school and summer recreation programs in order to save costs. He turned over maintenance of parks to private companies and recreation leagues and oversaw widespread staffing cutbacks as his department's budget shrank from a high of $54 million to $36 million.

"He’s been the director during a period of extreme change," said Sharon Subudan, deputy county administrator. "But he always maintained a can-do attitude."

Thornton said he joked to Subudan that if he had a chance to do it over again knowing what the economic collapse would do to county government and his part of it, he's not sure he would.

"Usually in parks, we build things," Thornton said. "We’ve kind of had to go in a different direction. It was a challenge for all of us. I’m very proud of having done it and gotten us to where we need to be."

His last day is June 21.

[Last modified: Friday, May 31, 2013 4:26pm]

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