By Michele Tjin - MediaNews
Article Launched: 09/27/2007 02:59:21 PM PDT
With an interest in providing more activities and opportunities for youth and seniors, Michael Taylor is the new face in the Saratoga Recreation Department. The newly named director of recreation and facilities possesses an attitude toward his new job that any employer would be happy to see.
"I can't wait to give back to the community," Taylor said. "As soon as I got here, it felt like home. It was comforting and welcoming. The community felt like a place where I would love to live and work."
Taylor has had a few months already to study and get to know Saratoga better. Taylor, 52, has been working in Saratoga since March as the interim director of recreation. Just recently, he was called to fill in permanently for Joan Pisani, who retired because of illness in August.
For Taylor, the recreation department is an integral service the city provides. Unless residents are reporting a pothole or constructing a house, they have very little reason to deal with the city. But the recreation programs are channels where residents do interact with the city. It's a first point of contact, he said.
"We create community and build quality of life through our programs," he said. Taylor plans on assessing the needs of the community, specifically targeting those who are not participating in the city's recreation programs. This data will set the department's strategic planning direction for the next five years. Taylor is also looking for more ways for young people to be active, whether with martial arts, dance or other activities, as a way to address health and obesity rates in children and teens. "We're the ones who can take the lead in this social issue," he said.
Taylor also has other demographics in mind. The population of Saratoga is graying, and there is an influx of immigrants. Taylor said he wants to make sure the city's programs have what seniors and newcomers are looking for.
It's no surprise that Taylor is working to increase recreational opportunities for others. He has been a lifelong believer in being active. His office has constant reminders of his passion for the outdoors; there are photos of him snowboarding and rope climbing. Before coming to Saratoga, he was the senior recreation supervisor in Menlo Park.
Taylor also ran his own gymnastics center for nine years in Minnesota, his home state. In fact, gymnastics is like a side job for him. A former gymnast, he has tapped into his gift for teaching and is a coach for other coaches. He is a national staff member of USA Gymnastics, where he has written books for the organization, and teaches a safety course. In August, he received an award from USA Gymnastics during the national championships held in San Jose, where he was recognized for his contributions.
"This is all part of recreation," he said. "I love what I do."
During his short time here, Saratoga has already given him plenty to chew on. He is working on the development of the North Campus and is looking forward to working collaboratively with such groups as the Friends of Saratoga Libraries and the Saratoga Historical Foundation and Museum. He credited his predecessor, Pisani, for building the department to what it is now and said he's glad to take charge of a dedicated crew.
"We're all on the same team," he said. "They all do their jobs and are committed to serving the Saratoga residents. (They were) open to the new guy coming in."