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Barrow County hires new leisure services director

WINDER - Nicole Smith, 33, was hired in August as Barrow County's new Leisure Services Director.

Smith is a 1991 graduate of Central Gwinnett High School in Lawrenceville. She attended both DeKalb College and Wingate College in Charlotte, N.C., on tennis scholarships. She graduated from Wingate College with a bachelor of science degree in recreation.

Tennis is a family tradition, and she has played since age 8.

"Dad played tennis through college, the pro ams," Smith said. "It was a natural progression for us."

She now plays on a USTA tennis team in Winder.

For nine years, Smith worked as a tennis coach for Wingate College where she oversaw NCAA compliance regarding sports rules, scholarships and budgets.

"After nine years I was ready to do something different," Smith said. "I was visiting my parents for Mother's Day weekend. The Gwinnett Daily Post was laying on the table open to the want ad section. I saw the ad for this job and applied."

Smith supervises the 77-acre, 50-year-old Victor Lord Park and its five-year-old, 25,000-square-foot recreation building, the $881,000 2007 budget, day camps and numerous football, baseball and soccer teams.

"The NCAA philosophy is 'Participation for all,' and I carry that here," Smith said. "If a child wants to play ball, we add him to the team. We don't tell him it's full. We offer scholarships up to 80 percent. Some kids go to Gwinnett for sports. I'd like to see them all stay here. We have players from Dacula, Lawrenceville, Loganville, Hoschton and Jefferson. It is much cheaper to come here to play on a team than Gwinnett because we have no out of county fee."

She began leading the department about the same time that Barrow County started expanding their recreational services. Within the next year, residents will see the opening of Barrow's first swimming pool, extensive upgrades to the soccer fields at Victor Lord Park and construction of a new soccer complex in Braselton.

The park offers karate classes and children's summer day camps. Smith expanded those existing programs to include day camps during Christmas break,

a Dec. 2 candy cane hunt, a father/daughter dance

scheduled for February and several new classes like knitting, fitness, scrapbooking, beadmaking and children's art classes on select Saturdays.

"Barrow will boom and the recreation department will be ready," Smith said. "The master plan calls for parks around different quadrants of the county. I'd like to build a dog park, skateboard park and more passive gardens. Right now, space is challenge. We can't expand Victor Lord Park. If we could build two more soccer fields it would make all the difference."

Smith is married with a 3-year-old son. In her free time she plays tennis, reads, knits and works in the yard.