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Ypsilanti Parks Chief To Retire

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Ypsilanti Parks Chief Retire

By Aretha Jackson

YPSILANTI — Ypsilanti Recreation Director Jesse B. Rutherford has announced that he is retiring next Feb. 1, after 28 years with the city’s Recreation Department.

Rutherford will become the third Ypsilanti department head to leave the city's service since April. City Planning Director Jeffrey Farkas was dismissed in May and City Manager Peter Caputo submitted his resignation, upon council request, Aug. 6.

Rutherford stated he chose a retirement date next year because he wanted to be in office for the dedication of the city's first municipal swimming pool, sometime early next spring.

Rutherford, who is black, added that one reason he will regret leaving the post, is because there are presently only two black directors in the Michigan Recreation Association. “We have been pushing for more administrative positions in this state, but I have decided that I can probably do more on the outside than in.’’

Although Rutherford has been the center of a few minor controversies within the last few months, he stated that his decision to retire did not come under pressure.

Early in June, Rutherford was criticized by local residents and political leaders when he prepared an environmental impact statement supporting the feasibility of placing the city's $200,000 municipal swimming pool in Recreation Park.

Charges were levied that the statement was ill-prepared and erroneous. However, the statement was approved by the Department of Natural Resources, and council eventually stuck by its initial decision to put the pool in Recreation Park.

More recently, Rutherford was criticized by representatives of the city’s softball leagues for what they claimed were technical and organizational problems in the Recreation Department.

In spite of difficulties on the local level, Rutherford, who has served on several stale and national committees, apparently continues to be held in high esteem nationally. His announcement to retire came in the wake of another announcement from the director of the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) to the effect that Rutherford's name is being placed in nomination as a candidate for the Board of Trustees of NRPA. That board includes such notables as William Penn Mott Jr. and Laurance S. Rockefeller.

The 60-year-old Rutherford became recreation director in 1968. He is also treasurer of the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, vice-chairman of the Washtenaw Country Recreation Advisory Council, a member of the national and Michigan Recreation and Parks Associations, and a member of the minority relations council of both those organizations.