The Harker Heights Parks and Recreation Department recently welcomed three new hires to its team.

Jeff Achee, the new athletic coordinator, and Annie Vernon and Thomas Watkins, part-time recreation aides, started work at the end of September.

Achee, 24, a Belton resident and recent Texas A&M graduate, comes to Heights from the Dallas area where he previously worked in the state park system.

“This is my first job in the athletic field, but I’ve been building up to this job my whole life,” said Achee, who organized intramural sports in college and describes himself as a “sports junky.” “I don’t just coordinate sports in an office all day, I also get out there and play them as well.”

Achee said he’s looking forward to stretching his creative muscle in his new position.

“I really want to expand our adaptive sports program,” he said, referring to the Super Hero Sports Program.

“This is a great community where everyone is involved and people here are very accepting of new ideas. This is a great place for a young guy like me to showcase my ideas.”

When he’s not at work, he likes to play sports and watch sports, much to the chagrin of his wife, Sarah.

Jerry Bark, director of parks and recreation, said the new employees bring an energy to the department.

“We are the department of fun, so you need to have some excitement if this is what you want to do.”

Bark said the very definition of recreation has changed. Despite people’s hectic schedules, all of his employees play a vital role in serving their customers’ needs.

“People utilize their leisure time differently these days, and I know Jeff will bring a fresh perspective to recreation and quality of life here,” Bark said. “Our part-time recreation aides play an important role on our team. Since they work from 6 to 9 p.m., they deal with customers and parents who are dropping by after work to fill out forms. They are really in tune with our customers.”

After following her high school sweetheart-turned-husband from Wisconsin to Fort Hood two years ago, Vernon, 22, is adjusting well to her new life in Texas and her new job.

“I really like working with kids,” she said. “We had a great parks and recreation department in Wisconsin, so I wanted to see how they did things here, and I am really enjoying it.”

When she’s not working or waitressing at Boston’s in Killeen, Vernon is studying medical billing and coding at Central Texas College, playing volleyball and cheering on the Green Bay Packers.

After both of his parents retired from active-duty Army service at Fort Hood, Watkins, 19, said he knows a thing or two about service.

“I’m going into the Air Force, so this is the perfect job for me to do until then,” he said.

“I really like making the seniors smile when they walk in and all the different programs we offer here.”

The 2012 Harker Heights High School graduate likes to fish and play basketball when he’s not helping parents, coaches and seniors.

Contact Vanessa Lynch at or 254-501-7567.

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