The Whitehall Parks and Recreation Commission didn't need to look far to find the new director of Whitehall's parks and recreation department.

The commission interviewed two candidates from a list of six finalists and chose Shannon Sorrell, who had been recreation superintendent for the parks and recreation department in neighboring Gahanna.

Five of the seven members of Whitehall's parks and recreation commission interviewed the pair of final candidates; the decision to offer Sorrell the post was unanimous, commission member Mike Adkins said.

Adkins described Sorrell as "eager and intelligent" with "quite a bit of knowledge about water features" as they apply to a parks system.

That knowledge could come in handy as Whitehall prepares to open its splash pad next summer at John Bishop Park.

Sorrell said she saw the chance to lead Whitehall's parks and recreation department "as a great opportunity to continue serving a community" on the east side of Franklin County.

Sorrell, who resides in Pataskala, is a graduate of the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University and earned a master's degree in parks and recreation from North Carolina State University.

"The momentum (in Whitehall) and the economic investments being made impressed me. I wanted to be a part of that. I'm excited to get started," said Sorrell, whose first official day was Jan. 18.

In addition to the splash pad, Sorrell said overseeing planned upgrades at the community building at Whitehall Community Park as well as the soon-to-begin demolition of a portion of a former armory on Country Club Drive coupled with new construction at the site are among her top priorities this year.

Sorrell had worked in Gahanna for more than nine years.

She succeeds Steve Carr, whose tenure as Whitehall's director ended under less-than-ideal circumstances.

Carr, who had served as director since April 2010, submitted retirement notice in early September, effective Dec. 31, 2016.

The commission accepted it but amended the effective retirement date to Oct. 31, and soon acted to place him on paid administrative leave Oct. 4-31.

Commission member Greg Thurman, who resigned in November in advance of what he said would have been his dismissal by action of City Council, had publicly criticized the commission for becoming "politicized" in accepting Carr's retirement.

According to the Whitehall city charter, the director serves at the pleasure of the commission and is not under the purview of the mayor, though Mayor Kim Maggard previously acknowledged she had sought a conference in 2014 to consider a process for his removal.

At the time of his retirement, Carr had an annual salary of $72,176 with a benefits package worth 18 percent of his salary.

Sorrell's annual salary is $76,500 with benefits worth 14 percent of her salary, said Auditor Dan Miller.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo