MILTON, Ga. — A familiar face among Milton’s city staff has announced his retirement after a long stint with the city, and a much larger role within the local recreation community.
Parks and Recreation Director Jim Cregge recently announced his retirement after serving in his city leadership role for eight years.
“I am sad to leave the City of Milton but excited for my next step,” Cregge said. “It has been an honor to serve the community and to be a part of the development of so much in Milton. I will always cherish and appreciate the support that I received from Mayor (Joe) Lockwood, councilmembers, (City Manager) Steve Krokoff and the rest of my friends and co-workers at the city, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board members and especially the citizens of Milton.”
Last August, Cregge’s wife, Kathleen, retired after 18 years as a kindergarten teacher’s assistant at Alpharetta Elementary School. In December, Cregge announced he was also stepping down from coaching youth sports. But he and his wife still intended to stay in the area for a few more years.
However, COVID-19 and the loss of a close friend led Cregge to pursue his retirement early.
Cregge’s friend, Ron Hill, died of the novel coronavirus in April. Hill was a well-revered coach of several sports in North Metro Atlanta and spent eight years on Milton’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
“Just two months before, we had spent a day together and discussed our retirement plans,” Cregge said. “Then he got COVID and passed.”
Hill discussing his retirement plans, and not living to see them out struck a particular chord with Cregge. His father retired at 62 after a 40-year career at a phone company. But just four months after retirement, Cregge’s father passed away.
“For Kathleen and I, we realized that this was the time to start to enjoy our life,” Cregge said.
Around a year ago, Cregge and his wife decided that one day they would retire to Hardeeville, South Carolina. Cregge said his wife grew up less than a 10-minute walk from the Jersey Shore, and the beach had begun calling them.
“And we decided that ‘one day’ was ‘today,’” he said.
Just as Cregge had not necessarily expected to retire early, his career aspirations did not originally include a government position. But he was primed for his role through volunteering at local parks.
Cregge worked in the electronics industry for over three decades, mostly in the field of security technology. But when his three children became involved with youth sports at Bell Memorial Park, Cregge began coaching and scheduling games. Soon after, he began serving as the Hopewell Youth Association president and was later appointed to Alpharetta’s Parks and Recreation Department.
In 2012, Cregge joined Milton to lead its Parks and Recreation Department. During his time with the city, Cregge oversaw Milton’s transition from a community with extremely limited park spaces and programming into its rapid expansion in recent years.
While at the helm of the parks and rec department, Cregge led the efforts to expand Bell Memorial Park.
“Without question, the redevelopment of Bell Memorial Park is the professional highlight of my time with the city,” he said.
He also oversaw the reopening of Providence Park and the crafting of its master plan, spearheaded the planning process for the former Milton Country Club property and the city’s continuation of the swim and tennis programs at the site. Cregge also helped develop the 2027 parks and recreation master plan, and the city offered numerous new recreation programs which began under his direction. Cregge, along with other city staff, also earned the city federal and state grants for park improvements, saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In 2018, Cregge received the District 7 Distinguished Professional Administrator of the Year award from the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association.
Cregge also helped numerous North Fulton teens prepare themselves for their careers and leadership roles.
In 1996, Cregge began the Hopewell Youth Umpire Program, a paid position for local teens to umpire softball and baseball games at Bell Memorial and North Park in Alpharetta. Cregge also calls the program, “employment 101.” The umpiring program also serves as a mentorship system, teaching life skills and instruction on how to land a job.
Cregge coached 70 youth sports teams and ran his umpiring program for 50 seasons.
But, as Cregge put it, it is time he and his wife take on a new adventure.
Tom McKlveen will serve as the interim Parks and Recreation Manager.
“I want to thank Jim for everything he’s done for the City of Milton – and for me, personally,” McKlveen said. “Jim has given countless hours, even nights and weekends, to build up our Parks and Recreation Department to support so many youth and adults who’ve been involved in our programs. He is one of a kind and will be greatly missed. I wish him and Kathleeen the best in their well-deserved retirement.”