OCEAN CITY – On Tuesday afternoon, for the first time in 16 years, Recreation and Parks Director Tom Shuster sat in the audience of council chambers as a citizen enjoying the first day of his retirement from the Town of Ocean City.
“I am standing here representing the Mayor and City Council, the city manager, all the department heads and employees, and citizens of Ocean City. A lot of times I have to present a bitter-sweet moment, and this is one of them,” Mayor Rick Meehan said during Tuesday afternoon’s Mayor and City Council work session. “Tom has been the Director of Parks and Recreation in Ocean City for over 15 years now. We were talking the other day of how quickly time has passed by but we were also talking about the department and how much it has grown in 15 years. Not only has the building expanded but so has the programs, the outreach into the community, and everything we have done at Northside Park.”
Meehan commended Shuster of his professionalism in the way he interacted with the council, staff and the public.
“That was one of the things that Councilman Dennis Dare, then city manager, saw when he brought Tom Shuster forward to be our director of Park and Recreation,” he said. “He always provided a high-level of service. I have never had any complaints of our Parks and Recreation but that is because it excels, and it excels because of the entire department. Tom is the face of that department and has made sure that has been maintained for the past 15 years.”
Meehan looked back at the expansion of Northside Park, where the Recreation and Parks Department is centered, and the progress that has been made since Shuster came on board in 1998.
“I look at all of the things we have done, such as our camps that we now have that we didn’t have 15 years ago. When I talk to visitors, they will mention to me that they actually plan summer vacations around our camps … and that is all part of what Tom has developed as director of Parks and Recreations,” he said. “There have been some challenges along the way with what we have done and we have laid some new trails in Ocean City when we opened the dog park that was a long time coming. That is just an example of some of the initiatives Tom helped develop with the council and working with the Parks and Recreation Commission, and being involved in our community.”
Meehan presented Shuster with a Proclamation and Key to the City. The Proclamation states, “Tom Shuster has contributed 16 years of dedicated service that is reflected in his accomplishments as the Director of Recreation and Parks for the Town of Ocean City.
“Tom Shuster has played a visionary leadership role as the Director of the Recreation and Parks Department in Ocean City since 1998, whereas his professionalism, skills and experience have been instrumental in achieving the well-recognized success of Recreation and Parks.
“The Mayor and City Council commend Tom for his 16 years of devoted service and wish him a happy and healthy retirement, and further bestow upon him the honorary title of Director Emeritus of Recreation and Parks.”
Shuster then addressed the council.
“To Mayor Rick Meehan and the entire council thanks for this recognition of my service to the town. It truly has been my honor and privilege to serve the people of Ocean City and our many visitors. I am especially happy to have worked with so many people in our community, including individuals, groups, businesses and service organizations,” Shuster said.
Shuster recognized and thanked the Recreation and Parks Boosters, his colleagues, city employees and visitors.
“I would be remiss if I did not recognize the city manager that hired me in 1998. [Councilman] Dennis Dare invited me to join his team and take Recreation and Parks in Ocean City to a new level of achievement. Dennis you gave me the support and freedom to make us one of the best Recreation and Parks agencies in the nation. I trust you are pleased with the way it turned out,” Shuster said.
Last but not least Shuster thanked his wife and sons for their love and patience throughout his career. He then offered some words of advice to the council.
“I want to take this opportunity to call upon the Mayor and City Council to look to the future and complete important Recreation and Parks projects that are left undone,” Shuster concluded. “Keep the momentums going with Worcester County, so we can secure that lease for the park lands between 3rd and 4th streets from Philadelphia Ave. to the bay. Please find a way for funding for the Bayside Park development and the expansion of the skate park. Please continue to support the Recreation and Parks Department and its new leadership as it grows to be a positive force in our community.”