New parks and recreation director brings her big city experience to Salisbury

Published 12:05 am Saturday, May 18, 2024

SALISBURY — After a months-long search, Keisha Coxe has replaced Nick Aceves as Salisbury’s new parks and recreation director.

Originally from Wadesboro, Coxe is an alumni of Wingate University where she played basketball and volleyball. Coxe got her start in parks and recreation in Mecklenburg County moving up from a seasonal employee to a facilities director, contributing to several projects including, most recently, Grayson Skatepark. 

She went on to join Perform Media Inc. as a facilities director before she moved to Orlando, Florida eventually becoming their district manager. There, she supervised 19 neighborhood centers including two senior sites. Even though she’s been employed in both big and small cities, she said she actually appreciates smaller cities more for what they can accomplish. 

“They’re small in numbers, but oftentimes they have a different type of collaboration where they work closely together across division lines, interdepartmental, I like that. Bigger cities, you deal with more people, more facilities. Your attention, I think, to detail is spread out amongst a wide group of many different things that happen with a municipality, but I like the small cities better because you can get to know people a lot better. You can be really intentional about your projects, your areas of programming and the things that you want to do,” Coxe said.

Coxe believes her years of experience is what got her chosen to be director. While in Orlando, she noticed that larger municipalities tend to work separately from each other. Down there, they paid more attention to the youth, but not to seniors as much. She said her and her team offered free technology classes and that soon spawned senior social groups. 

“From that, we started planning trips and doing classes and special events and bringing seniors that otherwise wouldn’t interact with each other, we were able to bring them together,” Coxe said. 

Having grown up in North Carolina, Coxe said she always envisioned returning one day, she was just waiting for the chance to present itself. 

“I knew that I wanted to come back home, I just didn’t know how I was going to get back here. So when I saw the opportunity online, I said that would be a perfect fit for me,” Coxe said. 

Coxe said Salisbury reminds her of Wadesboro and she wants to do her best as the parks and recreation director. 

“I was honored to get the position for a lot of different reasons. I think with recreation, it’s a natural passion for me, serving the community and serving people,” Coxe said.

The reason Coxe is so committed to parks and recreation stems from how she was raised and what she discovered about herself while at Wingate. 

“I came from a family who served, both my parents were educators in the school system. I played basketball and volleyball, so I was kind of like a gym rat and I loved serving people through coaching and through athletics, that was my main passion,” Coxe said. “I knew recreation afforded me the opportunity to be able to work across many different lines as far as education is concerned, athletics, aquatics, cultural programs, special events. For me, it was the love of having all of my strengths and passions under one roof.” 

Coxe officially started her job on May 6 and she is already a huge fan of Salisbury and that everything is so close to each other. She also can’t get enough of the delicious food.

Going forward, Coxe is eager to get her hands dirty with the Wells Fargo building renovations and the Parks and Recreation and Senior Center Master Plan. 

From the beginning of the interview process, the people of Salisbury stood out to Coxe and having this much cooperation from the local government was something that was new to her. 

“I’ve never worked with a municipality where the communication and the collaboration has been like this, it’s top tier,” Coxe said.

From a department standpoint, Coxe would like to do more for seniors, boost cultural arts, meet with more groups and individuals, maintain the city’s summer camp programs and strengthen sustainability programs that get people and kids outdoors. However, for now, she is trying to be patient and do what’s best for the people of Salisbury. 

“I have a whole list of things that I want to do, but I promised myself that I would take my time to look, listen and observe and really delve into the master plan and seeing what the community feedback is, but I guess for me, to sum it up, what I want to do is I want to serve the community as they need to be served,” Coxe said.