Covington native rises through ranks to lead Newton Parks and Recreation

COVINGTON, Ga. — Dwayne Mask says he never thought of working anywhere but his hometown during a four-decade career with the Newton County Parks and Recreation Department.

Now, Mask has worked his way up to lead the 17-employee department after 33 years.

County Manager Lloyd Kerr promoted him recently after Mask served twice in three years as interim director.

Mask said his promotion to the director’s job “worked out for me” after all the years in the department.

“I’m very appreciative for the opportunity,” he said.

Kerr said he selected Mask “because his experience, knowledge, job skills and professionalism stood out.”

“He was twice the county’s interim recreation director and both times guided the department through difficult times,” he said. “I know Dwayne will continue his terrific work for Newton County in leading our Parks and Recreation Department.”

Kerr said he did not consider any of the other five or six applicants for the job. Mask’s familiarity with the department’s operations and staff separated him from other applicants — most of who were from outside Newton County, he said.

“I don’t believe they would have fit in Newton County real well,” Kerr said.

“There was no one else who knew the department top to bottom,” he said. “(Mask) has done everything from cutting the grass to handling administrative details.

“The personnel have a lot of respect for him,” Kerr said. “It was just a really good fit.”

Homegrown leader

Mask, 55, is a Newton County native who was fresh off playing baseball on scholarship for Brewton-Parker College in south Georgia when a maintenance position opened in the department in 1987.

He worked his way up to become maintenance supervisor before moving to a department administrative role in 2010 and assistant director in 2015.

Mask served as the interim director but decided not to apply for the permanent position following the Newton County Recreation Commission’s termination of Anthony Avery in December 2017.

Avery later filed a wrongful termination lawsuit after his firing and the county reportedly settled it with him for $500,000. 

The recreation commission formed in 1999 to take over the department’s operations after the county and Covington had jointly operated it.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners asked the Georgia General Assembly to dissolve the commission earlier this year amid a dispute over employee bonuses, and the department became an arm of the county government under Kerr’s direction in July.

In late July, former director Ternard Turner announced the department was canceling all fall sports, including baseball and softball, because of the rapid spread of COVID-19 — a move which drew some heavy criticism on social media.

Turner then abruptly resigned on Aug. 7 and Mask again served as interim director until his promotion.

Mask said the department is offering youth basketball this year but at a much smaller participation level than the usual 500 players and 60 teams because of safety concerns around COVID-19.

The department limited basketball to 17 teams in four age groups; limited the number of adults who can attend games for social distancing purposes; and plans to do a thorough cleaning of the gyms between games, Mask said.

Mask said the department is considering adding flag football to its organized sports offerings in 2021.

“I want to grow the girls programs,” he said.

It also is considering adding volleyball — which it formerly offered — and soccer in 2022, he said.  

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