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SELMA — Joe Carter joined the Selma Parks and Recreation Department as a program supervisor in June 1983 and became the director in 1990, a position he’s held for 28 years.
Carter has been a familiar face at Selma Railroad Days, the Christmas parade, Senior Citizens Day in May and countless parks and recreation events through the years. He has announced his retirement effective Dec. 31. Town Manager Elton Daniels has posted advertisements for Carter’s successor.
“All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply, both internal and external candidates,” said Daniels.
Carter described the idea of retirement as “bittersweet” and said it’s become more of a reality since he’s seen his job advertised.
A Garner native, Carter knew early on in life that he wanted a career in parks and recreation. He graduated from N.C. State University with a bachelor of science degree in parks and recreation management.
“I’d been looking for a job after I graduated,” said Carter. “I wanted something close to home, saw the job notice, applied and have been here ever since.”
Carter said he always wanted to work in a small town and compared Selma to Mayberry when he first started work.
“It didn’t take long to get to know the people,” said Carter. “I knew from the start that someday I would end my career here.”
He attributes his success to his staff. In addition to Hubble-Zeneberg, the parks and rec department is led by events planner Melissa Dooley and maintenance leader Mike Sliger.
“There isn’t a single department head in the town of Selma that’s not assisted parks and recreation,” said Carter. “We’ve also gotten tremendous support from the town administration and the community.”
When Carter joined the parks and recreation staff, he said the emphasis was on youth activities. While youth sports is still a major component, Carter said there have been changes through the years.
“Now, we have more programming for all ages,” said Carter. “We’ve expanded our senior programs and work well with the Harrison Center for Active Aging.”
Senior Citizens Day, held on the second Friday in May, has become one of the department’s most popular events.
The event was the brainchild of former Selma mayor Joe Moore 22 years ago.
“Mayor Moore said, ‘Let’s have a luncheon and entertainment for the seniors,” said Carter. “We publicized it and were overwhelmed by the response. We hold it at the Selma Fire Department and average 200 people each year. The seniors are always so appreciative.”
Carter said the parks and recreation department has always received support from the local schools — Selma Elementary, Selma Middle and Smithfield-Selma High School. “They’ve always been great in providing space for our activities,” said Carter.
One of the benefits of having been in Selma so long, Carter said, is seeing second-generation children participating in athletics and the other events.
“It’s a real blessing to see the children of adults who were kids playing ball when I started,” said Carter.
Although he won’t be the parks and recreation director on Jan. 1, Carter said he won’t be a stranger to Selma.
“I’ll still be working part-time for Johnston County, driving a van for JCATS (Johnston County Area Transit System), something I’ve done for the past couple of years,” said Carter. “That’s just another opportunity to stay in contact with people.”
Carter has two grown children and a 13-month-old grandson he’s looking forward to spending more time with once he retires.
“This job has been fun,” said Carter. “It’s been my pleasure to make many friends in Selma and throughout Johnston County. I appreciate the support this community has given to me and the parks and recreation department.”