Watching the news every day can be exhausting but working in journalism takes an even greater toll on a person’s health and well-being. Just ask Derek Clay, a 26-year news media veteran turned parks and recreation pro. He built a community newspaper from scratch, managed two well-established newspapers, and even worked as a cops and court beat reporter. While he loved being of service to Hendricks County, Derek eventually reached his breaking point and decided to take his career in a different direction while continuing to fill a personal passion of his—serving his community.
“Community service has always been a priority of mine, and living in Plainfield, I had a love for the community,” shared Derek. “The timing of the position as park administrator opening was just good timing. And I was excited to transition into a role where people who visit my jobsite nearly always leave with a smile on their faces.”
The role Derek serendipitously discovered was Park Administrator for Guilford Township, where he oversees Hummel Park and has since 2009. While his job description has evolved over the last decade, Derek takes each day in stride and acknowledges that even on the gritty days, he’s providing his neighbors with a special experience they might cherish for a lifetime.
“The most fun times are the excessively long days of July Fourth and our Hometown Holiday community events. Fun not so much for the work and effort my two part-time assistants and me, as well as our maintenance staff, have to put into them, but fun for what we get out of them,” Derek explained. “Seeing a community of people forgetting about their daily routines for a day to enjoy being around others, all while jumping on a giant trampoline, eating cotton candy or just sitting back and watching a symphony and some fireworks, makes it all worth the effort.”
And when it comes to putting in the effort, Derek and his team don’t back down from a challenge. In addition to their daily tasks of renting facilities, scheduling baseball diamond usage and planning events, they are currently hard at work installing an inclusive playground.
“Hummel Park has just begun the installation work for some additional “inclusive” playground equipment to accommodate those with special abilities,” said Derek. “These new features, when finished, will allow for even more interactive play between all children within the park, including those using assistive devices. We are glad to be on the leading edge of moving toward more inclusive play.”
With the amount of blood, sweat and tears Derek puts into Hummel Park, it’s no surprise to hear it is undoubtedly his favorite park in Hendricks County. Hummel features 205-acres, complete with trails, fishing lakes and picnic shelters.
“When I actually take a minute to step away from the work aspect and just come and enjoy Hummel Park, I can find both peacefulness and rest in the natural areas of the park, as well as fun and activity in the features,” said Derek. “From the concerts to the community celebration of July Fourth, to a family picnic at a shelter or a baseball game, nearly all of my experiences here at Hummel are meaningful and memorable.”
Derek says that while Hummel is at the top of his list, all the parks in Hendricks County offer their own unique features and benefits, and are all well-maintained and operated, something for which we should consider ourselves very fortunate to have. He notes one way to ensure the overall success of our outdoor spaces is by supporting the Parks Foundation of Hendricks County.
“The Parks Foundation of Hendricks County provides funding beyond your tax dollars to these much-needed resources and does so in an unbiased fashion. Some of the small details a parks department may not have time for, and some of the bigger needs which reach beyond the scope of a single department, such as a county-wide interactive park map, have been the undertakings of the Foundation,” added Derek.
Derek and his wife, Angie, have three children, one grandchild and a beloved pitbull named Athena, “the queen of our kingdom.” The Clay family loves to travel and enjoy new cultural experiences, and, most of all, they love spending time with each other and growing in their faith through regularly attending church. While Derek may have stepped away from working in the news years ago, we are grateful for everything he does today to bring plenty of good news to our community.