MIDDLEBURY — Terri Arnold, 55, had been looking for a new adventure, and now she’s about to relocate cross-country to Middlebury to live it.
The Middlebury selectboard last week appointed Arnold as the town’s new director of parks and recreation. She currently lives in Langley, Washington, where she serves as director of South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District on Whidbey Island.
Arnold replaces former Middlebury Parks and Recreation Director Tom Anderson, who retired this past June after 15 years with the town. The community went on a nationwide search for a successor and selected Arnold, who has an extensive background in recreation as well as landscaping and parks management.
“I have been a longtime admirer of New England. I have visited it many times and it is my favorite vacation spot,” Arnold said of her decision during a recent telephone interview. “That was a leading factor. The other leading factor was that Middlebury is about the same size as South Whidbey … I am more interested in serving a smaller parks and rec district than a major metropolitan district.”
She recently took stock in her professional future and came to the conclusion she would likely work another 10 to 12 years before retiring.
“I felt like I really wanted an adventure and feel I have one more adventure in me,” Arnold said. “When I saw the posting for Middlebury, I was very intrigued.”
She visited Middlebury during the last week in October and was quickly sold on the job.
“Needless to say, I fell totally in love with the town and its people,” Arnold said. “I know that my skills and background are very compatible and will be very helpful for Middlebury in building its parks and recreation department.”
Arnold was born in Alabama, where she and her military family lived until she was 10. Her dad moved the clan to Whidbey Island in Washington State in 1970 before he left for a tour in Vietnam. She has lived on the West Coast ever since, working in the recreation field for more than two decades.
Her résumé includes a decade-long stint with the city of Seattle’s parks and recreation department, from 1992-2002, serving as a coordinator of volunteers and recreation programs, a supervisor and a garden and tree maintenance specialist, among other roles. She retuned to Whidbey Island 10 years ago to become a leader of that area’s programs.
“I am free to roam around the country now,” Arnold said. “I just wanted to try a different area of the country. ”
She’ll spend the coming weeks preparing her move to Addison County in late December with the goal of starting her new job on Jan. 2. Her partner and their 8-year-old daughter will join her in June.
Her relocation will be smoother thanks to Middlebury Deputy Health Officer Tom Scanlon, who helped her find a furnished cottage on Lake Dunmore that she’ll be able to lease.
“Once I got the housing situation figured out, the rest was a piece of cake,” she said.
Arnold already already has some recreation program tweaks in mind for Middlebury.
First, she plans to introduce dodge ball, a sport she said has proved successful on Whidbey Island.
A dog lover, Arnold would also like to offer a program that teaches canines how to detect and follow scents. Again, it’s a program that has gained a lot of traction in South Whidbey, bringing in $27,000 in revenues this year.
“You teach your dog to identify birch, clove and anise,” Arnold said of the course, run by a certified instructor. “It’s fun to watch your dog become some keen at something they’re so natural at. (The program) has grown by leaps and bounds.”
Arnold is pleased to be joining the Middlebury staff at a time when the town seems poised to make some major investments in its recreation infrastructure. She cited the town pool and municipal gym as examples.
“Any space that’s improved means you can improve your capacity for programming,” Arnold said. “That increases outreach to your community, and revenues.”
She can’t wait to start her new job.
“I’m so thankful to have gotten the job and I’m really looking forward to rolling my sleeves up and working as hard there as I have anywhere else, really putting in place a premier parks and recreation department,” Arnold said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]