Earlier this month, Lodi Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Jim Rodems accepted a new job as the district administrator for the Cordova Recreation and Park District.
Rodems has worked in Lodi for almost four years, and his last day will be on Feb. 7. He will start on Feb. 16 with the new district, which serves 140,000 residents.
The district has a lot of room for growth, Rodems said, and it plans to increase the number of parks from 30 to 80 during the next 15 to 20 years.
The district is funded completely through county impact fees, so the $11.9 million budget is more stable than the city of Lodi’s, Rodems said.
“It’s county funds, so instead of having to go do battle with police and fire, it’s pretty much a set revenue source,” Rodems said.
The 47-year-old will report to a board of directors for the district, which approved his contract on Jan. 11.
The city of Lodi hired Rodems in March 2007 as the Hutchins Street Square director. In July 2008, he also assumed the role of the interim Parks and Recreation director. As of April 2011, he was making $118,224 a year.
His greatest accomplishment was merging the departments into one: the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department. He spent three years working on it, and the Lodi City Council approved the change in January 2011.
“The challenging part was making the community understand that the community center and parks and recreation can be in one department and not take from one another. ... Because of history and tradition, it was a hard sell,” Rodems said.
By combining the departments, the city has saved at least $500,000, mostly on management, Rodems said. The city only has one director for both departments, and went from seven managers to four.
City Manager Rad Bartlam also said that was Rodems greatest accomplishment, and he is sorry to see the department head move on. Bartlam said the merger of the departments probably helped Rodems get his new position.
“That district in particular is looking for someone who can deal with their budget issues. Ever since he came here, he’s been dealing with budget issues,” Bartlam said.
Rodems also spearheaded an effort to renovate the Grape Bowl, finding creative sources of funding — like federal Community Development Block Grant funding, developer impact fees and designated county funds — to update the 1930s stadium.
The project is in its next phase of Americans with Disabilities Act improvements to seating and the installation of ADA compliant ticket booth, restrooms and concessions. Bartlam said he does not believe the project will stall with Rodems leaving.
Having watched over the project, Rodems said it is now up to residents to support the final upgrades.
“It gets it where we wanted it to be to start getting some significant use of that facility. ... There is going to have to be some significant support from the community to finish it out,” he said.
Bartlam plans to have an interim director in place before Rodems leaves in February. He is not yet sure whether the city will conduct a search to fill the permanent position.
Before working in Lodi, Rodems had a long history of managing public buildings. He was the general manager of the Stockton Event Center, which includes the Stockton Arena and the Stockton Ballpark. He was also director of the Recreation Activity Center know as the Pavilion at UC Davis and manager of Freeborn Hall at UC Davis.
Rodems has a bachelor's degree in Recreation Administration from Fresno State University.
Rodems, who lives in Sacramento, said he is excited to have a shorter commute to work. He will miss most the friends he has met while working in Lodi.
“I work with a lot of great people, and I attended a lot of functions on the weekend, and the people I have gotten to know have been awesome and I’m going to miss that,” Rodems said.