Ask Jim Hughes a question and you are likely to get a story. And after working for the city of Johnson City for 31 years, he has plenty of them to tell.
“A friend of mine calls me a man for all seasons,” said Hughes, who serves as an assistant to city Parks and Recreation Director James Ellis. “I have done the ski patrols and road biking. But golf will always be my first love.”
Hughes, who grew up in the “Tree Streets” community of Johnson City, was working as the superintendent/golf pro at a private golf club in Southwest Virginia when he took a job in 1987 overseeing the city’s Pine Oaks Golf Course. He was later named director of golf operations after the city purchased the Buffalo Valley Golf Course in 1998.
Hughes took on a new role in January when the city decided to close the Buffalo Valley course. His current position gives him a wider view of the many facilities and functions of the Parks and Recreation Department. Meanwhile, Hughes said he “still keeps an eye on Pines Oaks.”
“I enjoy jumping on a new $50,000 piece of equipment and testing it out,” Hughes said. “It makes me feel like a kid again.”
He serves as point person for the city with Boyd Sports and the management of the Johnson City Cardinals. Hughes is also a member of the task force that has developed the mountain bike park on Tannery Knobs.
“I’ve had a quick learning curve,” he said in regard to his new position. “I’m flabbergasted by what all goes into maintaining our ballfields and facilities.”
Hughes said “a lot of things are changing in East Tennessee,” and that can be seen in the recreational opportunities offered by the city. He is always delighted to hear comments from people who grew up in Johnson City, moved elsewhere as adults and later return home to find the city now offers a surprising variety of recreational programs.
Those amenities now include bike trails, soccer fields and programs for residents of all ages at Memorial Park Community Center. The indoor pool at MPCC and the splash pads at other city parks are among the top attractions.
“Parents and their children all love the splash pads,” Hughes said. “Nobody gets hurt at a splash pad.”
Hughes said it is the people he deals who make his job enjoyable. He said talking to them is his “favorite part” of the workday. He often hears suggestions from patrons on how the city can improve its recreational opportunities.
“I wish we had the resources to offer everything people want,” he said. “We’ve had people talk about ice skating, lacrosse and building a tram from Pines Oaks to Buffalo Mountain.”