Williamson County parks director
Randy Bell had some big shoes to fill when he officially took over as Williamson County parks director last December.
He is only the second parks director in the county's history, replacing Jim Rodgers, who retired in 2011 after eight years of serving the county.
Before Bell began working for Williamson County in June 2010, he spent 27 years with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department working with state parks. He oversaw operations at five different Texas state parks. He also served as regional director in Waco for 14 years.
After a brief stint teaching junior high school science, Bell decided to return to operating parks systems. That's when he landed in Williamson County. He learned from Rodgers for more than one year as assistant director until taking over the parks system on an interim basis. Since then, Bell has worked toward improving the parks system that Rodgers helped build.
What sticks out working for Williamson County's parks system that's different from other parks systems?
Working for the county is a little different structure than the system I came from in that you're dealing with the Commissioners Court instead of the Legislature and commissions appointed by the governor. Your Commissioners Court sets the tone for services provided in this county, and this Commissioners Court is very supportive of parks.
How exactly did your role change when becoming director from assistant director?
As the assistant, you could weigh in with thoughts and opinions and directions you thought should go, but the director was the one who truly had to put his neck out and decide which way to go—kind of set the direction they want the parks department to go. The responsibility is the difference.
As director, do you get to work on some of the areas you're most passionate about?
I've seen a lot of systems across the state and the nation in some instances, and this is by far the top of line, in my opinion as far as county systems Our concentration is larger tracts of land, more nature-based. You'll see that in some of our master plans we've been in the last two or three years—one for a very large tract called Williams tract, which is a little more than 1,000 acres. We've renamed that to River Ranch County Park. That's up near Liberty Hill, and then another large tract that used to be known as Byers tract, and that has been renamed Blackland Heritage County Park. Both of those will, I think, help further our mission in the county. We see this system being for the citizens, which is larger tracts, nature-based, less structured recreation and more to my passion, which is nature-based trails settings.
Is any work under way on realizing the plans for the new parks areas?
Not at all. The master planning process is complete, but at this point there's no funding to implement either We're really limited to funding provided by the county and, in some cases, grant possibilities, but those are never 100 percent—mostly, they're matching, so even that requires funding. And given the state and other grant entities and their funding situations in recent years, those opportunities are also limited at this time.