Howington takes helm at Red Top Mountain
May 18, 2014 | 2077 views | 0 0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kelly Howington is the new park manager at Red Top Mountain State Park. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Kelly Howington is the new park manager at Red Top Mountain State Park. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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Having grown up in Bartow County, Kelly Howington describes his new position as Red Top Mountain State Park’s park manager as a “heartwarming homecoming.”

“My family is here,” said Howington, who graduated from Cartersville High School in 1994. “My mom and dad are here. My wife’s mom and grandmother live here as well and all of our friends — the foundation of what we’ve built for my two boys has been here. When we left the Cherokee Retreat Center across the lake, we didn’t really want to go at that point in time. It just was organizationally the right time and it had been almost nine years anyway in that position. So we followed the path that was before us to get

to South Carolina, but we’re

very, very happy and excited to be back here.

“... My dad was the librarian for the Bartow County Library System for many, many years and when he was searching for a house, my mom and my brothers and I actually lived in one of the cottages here at Red Top for a couple of weeks while they were searching for a house and getting all that finalized. So that was kind of the beginning of my time at Red Top. Then [I] ended up just coming back during summers and for picnics and doing some of the hikes and that kind of thing as well as a child. Then when I found the [Cherokee] Retreat Center that’s across the lake that I directed for a while, it was very similar terrain wise. It felt very much like home being there. So this kind of area has been pretty much a stomping ground for me.”

Assuming his duties April 1, Howington oversees the operations of various venues, including Red Top Mountain, Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, Allatoona Pass Battlefield and Pickett’s Mill Battlefield State Historic Site.

“He won the interview process,” said Joe Yeager, region manager for Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites. “He had related experience. He had group camp experience. He had local knowledge, having worked in the area with the camp on Lake Allatoona, had some experience working with the Corps and had related experience to being a park manager.

“... I look forward to him learning the park. He has a tremendous amount to learn, having not been in the park system. But, yes, we’re encouraged by his abilities and skills and approach to the work and look forward to working with him in the future.”

The majority of Howington’s experience is in nonprofit work, specifically camp programs. Along with his most recent position as the director of Clemson University’s R.M. Cooper 4-H Leadership Center in Summerton, S.C., he also served as the executive director at the Cherokee Retreat Center in White; executive director of Burnamwood Camp & Conference Center in Irvine, Ky.; and interim director for Camp Buc in Sapphire, N.C.

“I just always had in the back of my head that [this] would be a fun direction to go. It would be a challenge,” Howington said, referring to working for Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites. “It would be something new, something that I had not done before. When the position came open, because this was my hometown, I decided I should put my name in the hat.

“... Throughout my career, I’ve been working with the public and in different capacities, whether it’s been sending their children to a program or coming to actually stay at the facilities that I’ve directed. All of the organizations and sites that I’ve directed, I’ve actually lived on the property, like I do here. So I’m used to having all kind of different hours and responding to customers’ needs throughout the day whenever it comes up, and also just being able to work with a wide range of people that come to these sites, that’s happened regardless of whether I was in a nonprofit small summer camp or the Clemson University camp that I was at before this. There’s just a wide range of people that come in with different expectations and needs and you work really hard to make sure that you meet their needs.”

With this being his professional introduction to Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites, Howington is looking forward to learning more about the venues’ operations, specifically delving into the system’s business plans for each park, known as Direction 2015.

“I’m learning a lot about what [Georgia Department of Natural Resources] has already organized and what their goals are for the parks system,” Howington said. “They’ve done a lot of work with the recent business plans. There’s a set of business plans that’s posted that they’ve done for each of the parks. So I’m learning those.

“... I’m real excited to be in the job. I love to be home, look forward to welcoming everybody out here throughout Bartow County and beyond, especially with LakePoint coming in. That’s a piece I’m especially interested in learning more about and learning how we can connect programmatically with what they’re doing out there. It’s a real exciting time.”