Ed Merritt, the new director of the Hilliard Recreation and Parks Department, said he wasn't looking for a new job, but Hilliard's offer was too great an opportunity to pass up.

Merritt, 43, will take over Sept. 4, the day after Labor Day, according to Doug Francis, director of communications and internet technology for Hilliard.

"I am pleased to bring (Merritt) on board," Mayor Don Schonhardt said. "His accomplishments will bring a great deal of experience and leadership to our recreation and parks department."

The city's human-resources department collaborated with the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association to recruit and evaluate candidates for the position, and after a comprehensive, multistate search, Merritt was appointed by Schonhardt, said Anna Subler, the city's communications administrator.

Merritt's annual salary is $110,000 and his benefits are valued at $46,619, according to the city.

Schonhardt said he selected Merritt from among four finalists and was not involved in the process until the human-resources department identified the finalists.

The other three finalists were Erin Duffee, recreation administrator for Dublin; Jason Shamblin, assistant director of MetroParks of Butler County; and Andrew Wildman, executive director for the Granville Recreation District, according to Julia Baxter, Hilliard's human-resources director.

Thirty candidates applied for the post, Baxter said.

Merritt is a central Ohio native who graduated from Grove City High School in 1993.

He graduated in 1998 with a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green University, where he also played football. He has a master's degree in public administration from the University of Dayton.

He previously has served as recreation superintendent for Grove City and, for the past two years, director of the parks and recreation department for Obetz.

The Obetz department has an annual budget of about $2 million, Merritt said, compared to Hilliard's budget of almost $3.5 million in 2017, according to a document finance director David Delande provided to Hilliard City Council last year.

Merritt said he already knew some of Hilliard's staff members through OPRA or while working in Grove City and Obetz.

"I'm excited to get to work with the staff I've met and get to know those I haven't met," Merritt said.

Merritt said he believes he has a "good understanding (of) the big picture" concerning Hilliard's immediate future, including off-season upgrades at the Hilliard East Municipal Pool, and he will soon learn more.

Merritt succeeds Steve Mazer, whom Schonhardt fired March 8. Mazer's salary was $127,658.12, according to Baxter.

Mazer's dismissal followed the March 1 indictment by a Franklin County grand jury of Heather H. Ernst, the city's former deputy director, on eight felony counts that included one count of theft, one count of theft in office, two counts of tampering with evidence and four counts of filing incomplete, false and fraudulent tax records.

After several continuations, Ernst's latest trial date is set for Sept. 26.

Beth Simon, the city's recreation-programs director, has been serving as interim department director since March.

Merritt and his wife, Tiffany, reside in Bexley. They have three adult sons.

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