Aldermen create new Parks Director position; hire Fullilove
By Jeremy Weldon
The Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen created a new position this week, hiring Heath Fullilove as full-time Parks Director.
Fullilove comes to the new position with enthusiasm, and an ambitious plan to increase opportunities for youth to play sports here.
“I’m excited for the chance to work with the youth of Batesville, and to improve what is already here,” he said.
Fullilove, a native of Clarksdale, has lived in Batesville for 18 years. He has extensive experience in the management of youth sports and tournaments, including years of coaching and umpiring.
He is the North Mississippi-West Tennessee area softball director for USSSA, the largest multi-sport organization that governs most “travel ball” tournaments and many youth leagues across the country. Additionally, he is over all softball umpires in Mississippi.
He comes to the new position from the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Levee Board, where he has worked for 22 years.
Mayor Jerry Autrey said the post comes with an annual salary of $45,000 and a City truck.
“We’ve never had a full-time director for our parks and this will be a good move for the City of Batesville,” Autrey said.
The City was maintaining the parks with part-time help, and Autrey said some of those employees will be retained for part-time employment.
The Mayor said its a win-win for the City as he expects Fullilove will be able to bring enough revenue back to local coffers to cover his salary and more.
“With the tournaments that are being held at our parks, and more every year, I think it’s a step in the right direction for the youth of Batesville,” Autrey said.
The Mayor said he regularly hears complaints from residents about the lack of City-sponsored youth programs. “We’ve have nice parks already, and we’ve added splash pads for the kids, but we can always do more,” he said.
Fullilove’s duties will include maintaining Trussell Park, Patton Lane Park, American Legion Park, the walking trails at both Trussell and Indian Mound, and other projects the Board of Alderman have planned to increase youth activities in the city.
Right away, Fullilove said he plans to focus on maintenance at the parks, especially at Patton Lane, which has slipped to a level of disrepair in recent years. “It’s going to be a strong effort put forward to revive that park for the children of that area,” he said.
“When I interviewed with the board, I set the bar high for what I want to accomplish for the youth through our parks program,” Fullilove said. “With enough time I can back it up and try to make Batesville a destination for other teams and for tournaments.”
Plans for the parks and youth activities include:
• Starting city leagues for softball and baseball, beginning in the fall and then again in the spring.
Baseball/softball has always been played either at the privately-owned J.P. Hudson Park or at Patton Lane.
Fullilove said he intends to register Batesville leagues with USSSA and have regular season schedules and tournaments in the other parks that will include leagues from other surrounding cities.
Among the points he mentioned in his goal to improve the parks and recreational activities were:
• Restoring the church leagues for slow pitch softball (men and women) that have waned in recent years.
• Building the city adult softball program to levels from the past when the parks were full on spring and summer evenings with families watching the games.
• Improving the soccer program and possibly adding other league sports, including youth football.
• Actively recruiting teams for tournaments, utilizing all the parks. Under his plan, the City will still allow other groups to lease the parks occasionally, but will retain all rights to the concessions.
He noted that concession stands can routinely bring in $3,000-4,000 a weekend – money the City has been losing by allowing others to operate concessions and keep all the profits.
Fullilove said he has already scheduled a major softball tournament for June, and expects to have at least one big event a month. The more money generated by outside teams and fans is more money for programs and equipment for local kids
Fullilove graduated from Lee Academy, and attended Bethel College in McKenzie, Tenn., on a football scholarship before transferring to Coahoma Community College to play baseball. He also attended Delta State University before finishing his degree at Mississippi State University.
He and his wife Donna have two children, Landon and Nicole, both students at Delta State University.