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Luton takes reins of Columbia County recreation

Posted: February 6, 2013 - 1:02am
John Luton was promoted to recreation director for Columbia County. He will be the fourth to hold the position.  Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
John Luton was promoted to recreation director for Columbia County. He will be the fourth to hold the position.

When the Columbia County Commissioners recently approved a split of recreation and community events into two departments, it opened the door for John Luton.

Luton, who was the county’s recreation and events’ assistant manager for about four months, was promoted to recreation manager while Stacie Adkins’ role in running community events was expanded.

Luton is the fourth person to head the county’s rec department, following Don Dearing, Charlie Beale and Adkins.

The promotion was among the reasons that Luton accepted the job as assistant manager after serving as athletic director for Spartanburg County, S.C.

“One thing that attracted me about the job was the potential growth someday for me professionally, and I saw a lot of potential in Columbia County itself. I saw a lot of potential in the recreation department,” said Luton. “So, I thought that things were moving in a forward direction and that was very attractive to me.

“I had no idea that four months later that I would be promoted. I couldn’t be more excited and it’s going to be a challenge, but I welcome the challenge.”

Coming to Columbia County was a homecoming of sorts for the 32-year-old Luton. He grew up in Aiken, S.C., graduating from Aiken High School before going on to Clemson University where he graduated with a degree in parks, recreation and tourism management in 2003.

“It’s another perk of being back here,” Luton said. “I’m just right across the river. My parents still live in Aiken and my brother is actually the head baseball coach at Aiken High School, so I’ll get to catch some of his games.”

His last few years in Spartanburg, Luton said he was heavily involved in the design and construction of Tyger River Park, a $20 million, 13-field, 150-acre baseball-softball complex. That played well to what he took on as the county’s assistant manager.

“One of the first things I got to have on my plate was the Division II soccer tournament and that kind of lined up great with what I had been doing in Spartanburg, dealing with high-profile tournaments and that type of thing,” said Luton. “So I was very comfortable handling that type of stuff.”

Luton is impressed by the recreation department programmers and how programs are run, but would like to improve communication with customers.

“I think we utilize more technology to do that,” Luton said. “Stacie (Adkins) did a good job kind of getting the ball rolling on that. One thing we’ve started doing recently for our leagues is a Web site called quickscores.com. We’ve just kicked that off with basketball season and I think people really enjoy it so far and we’re really going to see how useful it is this spring with soccer and baseball and softball.”

Luton says they have promoted some programmers to supervisory roles and that the department may have a different take on things in the future.

“Now the ball has started rolling with turnover and I think that it’s a good thing always to get some fresh eyes on the stuff,” he said. “The staff is young and energetic and has great ideas and we’re letting them implement some ideas. We want to bring some fun back into the recreation out here and I think we’re doing that. There definitely seems to be a lot of excitement right now.”

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