Veach to leave city parks for hotel job
WINCHESTER — After spending nearly 13 years dealing with aspects of travel and tourism in city government, Brad Veach decided it was time to switch to the private-sector side of the industry.
Veach, who joined Winchester’s Parks and Recreation Department in July 2000 and was named its director in May 2006, is leaving his post on May 15 to become a hotel general manager for the Aikens Group.
“It was just an opportunity for me to kind of change career directions,” the 38-year-old said about becoming the general manager of the Comfort Inn in Martinsburg, W.Va. “It’s an opportunity to learn something new by working on the private-sector side.
“I think there are correlations between managing the park and managing a (hotel) property. It’s working with people, it’s maintaining and managing a property that brings people in for services. To me, it’s not that big a stretch.”
City Manager Dale Iman said Veach submitted his resignation Monday, but he spent a couple of days trying to talk Veach into changing his mind.
“Obviously I’m sad to see him leave. He’s a true professional,” Iman said. “He’s looking for opportunities that the city can’t provide at this time, and we wish him the best.”
A Frederick County resident, Veach graduated from James Wood High School in 1992. After working for several years and attending Lord Fairfax Community College, he landed at James Madison University and earned a major in sports management and leisure and a minor in business in 2000.
He worked briefly for the Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation Department before coming to Winchester as its sports and athletics director. He was promoted to operations superintendent and served briefly as the interim parks and recreation director after Tom Hoy moved to a position in the city’s Public Works Department.
Veach said he’d considered other professional opportunities, including possibly opening his own business, for several years. He didn’t want to leave the Winchester area, though, because he was born and raised here.
He got a view of the hospitality industry while at James Madison by doing planning work for some South Carolina resorts as part of his coursework. With the city, he gained experience in building construction, maintenance and landscaping management, which are responsibilities of a hotel general manager.
In recent years, Veach said, his department has increased its focus on cost recovery for program operation expenses.
“I think some of the things we’ve done here in the park will serve me well on the private side,” he said.
During his tenure as director, the city’s park system made several major changes. Among them are the $5.2 million Active Living Center addition to the War Memorial Building at Jim Barnett Park, the revitalization of Douglass Park and new playground installations.
Veach said he was pleased that the department was able to attract private funding for amenities such as a dog park and a disc golf course during the recent recession, and that it has expanded its use of technology to track labor costs.
He also said he was proud of having guided the department through multiple organizational changes over the past seven years and establishing events outside the park system by working with tourism and downtown officials.
“The staff always did it, they stepped up, they made it happen,” he said. “I think we changed the perception of what we’re capable of doing, really stretched ourselves to take on more.”
One of his top achievements was leading efforts to land, organize and operate the 2011 Cal Ripken 10-Year-Old World Series baseball tournament. The event brought nine teams from across the nation to Winchester for a national championship tournament.
The success of that event is evident because city recently accepted an invitation to host the tournament again in 2014.
Both Veach and Iman said the director’s departure shouldn’t affect upcoming World Series efforts because key staff members and volunteers who worked on the 2011 event remain in place.
“We have a lot of talented staff,” Iman said. “I’m confident we have the staff we need to put on a world-class event and show everyone what Winchester is all about.”
Iman said no timetable has been established for hiring a replacement. Veach’s salary as parks and recreation director is $78,852.
Steve Parrish, senior vice president for the Aikens Group, could not be reached for comment. The company’s website indicates that it owns seven hotel properties, including four in Winchester or Frederick County.
— Contact Vic Bradshaw at email@example.com