Frankfort’s new Director of Parks and Recreation starts Monday, just weeks after the previous holder of the job left under a cloud of suspicion.
Joel Tatum is accused of financial misdeeds, but city officials have been tight-lipped about what he allegedly did wrong. An investigation is ongoing by the county prosecutor’s office and the State Board of Accounts.
His replacement, Travis Sheets, returns to the position after several years away – some of which he spent in Africa.
Sheets previously oversaw Frankfort’s parks beginning in the early 1990s, and Mayor Chris McBarnes credits him with building TPA Park’s petting zoo and bird aviary, along with starting the city’s annual Festival of Lights.
Sheets says he’s already lost sleep thinking over plans of what to do next.
“I think that we will gear the parks department in an educational way, and we want to be friendly with the schoolchildren around Clinton County and elsewhere to be maybe a resource,” Sheets says. “And so, you’ll see some changes in that direction here, too.”
Sheets spent the last five years doing agriculture outreach work in Liberia. He and his wife, Gina, also developed an agriculture school at the Liberia International Christian College – where Sheets says ag knowledge has been lost after several years of war.
Sheets says that experience will inform his second go-round in the parks position.
“In Liberia, everything is done the hard way and a lot of innovation is put into everything we do,” he says. “And I feel like we can accomplish just about anything here, even if we have to do it the hard way.”
The Frankfort City Council changed a rule that required all department heads to live within city limits in order to hire him. Sheets now lives five minutes away from the city’s border.
The council amended the 35-year-old ordinance so that all department heads had to live within Clinton County.
Council president Jim Moyer was the only one to vote against the change. He was concerned that department heads, if they lived too far away, wouldn’t be accessible in an emergency.
“I know we’ve got communications now, with all of the new technology, but it’s not the same as having the boss right, physically there,” Moyer says. “And that was my point.”
The first time Sheets took the job in the early 90s, Moyer was on the council and approved his appointment. Moyer says this time, he would’ve approved it again -- without the rule change – and says he believes Sheets is a good fit for the job.