Decatur celebrates park and recreation director after three decades of service

As city of Decatur’s Park and Recreation director, Gregory White oversaw the completion of Decatur Recreation Center in 2013, Ebster Recreation Center and Pool in 2015, and Oakhurst Recreation Center in 2022, among other significant parks and recreation upgrades during his 30 years of service with Decatur.

White retired from his post as director of parks and recreations at city of Decatur on June 28, with city officials hosting a celebration at Legacy Park’s Hawkins Hall to honor White and his career.

“My mom would say ‘help people have some pride,’” said White. “We want to be a model city so people can come here and see how to do it.”

His career highlights, according to city officials, also include hosting the Burkino Faso dance group at Decatur Recreation Center during the 1996 Olympics; revitalizing Decatur’s Black history program; developing the city’s 2001 Athletic Facility Master Plan, which brought skate parks and dog parks to Decatur; establishing McKoy Skatepark in 2003; securing Nike sponsorships for city teams; beginning Decatur’s Touch-A-Truck program in 2003; introducing lacrosse to city of Decatur in 2003; and creating the new Decatur Parks and Recreation department in 2023.

For the building of McCoy Skatepark, White worked with Decatur Skate Club to not only design aspects of the park but also to show the club’s younger members how to petition city governments for funding and other necessaries.

 “It showed them that government works,” said White. “Now that’s empowering young people.”

White added that he and his team also ensured that no city parks and green spaces were closed during the pandemic.

While working for city of Decatur, he also served the city’s homeless community by stocking community pantries, creating the Unhoused Working Group, receiving and donating coats and blankets, speaking on local panels, and assisting in efforts with city partners such as Frontline Response.

“Homelessness is a regional issue. That’s my next work. We want to make this collaborative. We want to solve these issues, so no one has to suffer in 100-degree weather with no cold water,” said White, who added that he wants to focus some of his newly found free-time on leveraging relationships made with professional sports teams to fund homelessness initiatives.

“If I can get 1 percent of what they make,” said White. “We’re going to find the right player … or one who lived it … to be our spokesperson. That’s how I dream.”

At his retirement party, White credited his parents and family for his career in public service.

White is a native of Durham, North Carolina. A news release states his mother, Lillian, oversaw library branches in Durham, and his father, Ernest, was a doctor at Lincoln Community Health Center. His grandfather was the first African-American commissioner for Belzoni, Mississippi,

White worked for DeKalb County Recreation and Cultural Affairs from 1989 to 1993 before joining Decatur’s staff in 1994 and rising to his role of director in 2010. He has also volunteered his time at Southwest DeKalb High School in several capacities, including working as the public address announcer for the girls’ and boys’ basketball teams.

City staff said they also have plans to continue honoring White, even after his career with the city ended. Sara Holmes, the assistant director under White, said “we’re going to mark two benches —in a place of Greg’s choosing—and we’re going to mark them as buddy benches, because everyone knows Greg can make a friend anywhere he goes.”

City staff also presented a street sign to White, who will have a street in Decatur renamed to “Greg White Way.”

White received the Thomas O. Davis Award in 2011 and served as Georgia Recreation and Park Association’s president in 2021.

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