NEWPORT — Paul Stanley says he has big shoes to fill.
The new recreation program coordinator continues a proud tradition of Stanleys at the Carteret County Parks and Recreation.
His father, Billy, was the athletics program supervisor for five years (2007-2012). Billy died in 2012 at age 63.
“It’s a huge deal,” Stanley said. “He was a big influence. Even before I went to college, he kept telling me, ‘Here is where you need to be.’ That is when he first started here.”
Like his father, Stanley took a circuitous route to get to the Carteret County Parks and Recreation Department.
His father retired from the U.S. Coast Guard as well as civil service, having been employed at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.
Stanley, the son, spent 5½ years in the U.S. Navy and spent two stints at Peppertree in Atlantic Beach, including most recently as the recreation director.
“I tried to fight him a little bit when he told me this was for me,” Stanley said of his father pointing him in the right direction. “I wanted to act like he didn’t know me as well as he thought he did. Then I started doing it and realized he was right. As soon as I declared my major, I knew I was going to have to tell him he was right.”
Originally planning to become a teacher and coach, Stanley changed his mind and majored in recreation management at Appalachian State University.
“I remembered the kids I went to high school with, and I didn’t know if I wanted to deal with that,” Stanley joked about returning to teach or coach. “You have to know yourself. That was probably not for me.”
He then planned to make a career out of the Navy, but a couple of stints on destroyers cured him of that idea.
“I went in thinking I was going to do 20 years, but then I got to my first ship and was like, ‘Man, this is pretty intense.’ We were never home, ever. After the second ship, I realized I shouldn’t be there.”
Stanley, 32, who is married with four children, returned home at the beginning of 2018 and worked at Peppertree before it closed due to damage from Hurricane Florence.
He applied for the recreation program coordinator position last fall when it first became open but didn’t get the job. The job became available again in May, and this time it was meant to be.
“Most of the people were here when my dad was here,” he said. “He’s a built-in measuring stick. It’s cool.”