Worthington Pools has its first executive director in a move meant to help the organization "grow up."
In late May, SwimInc Inc. – Worthington Pools' private nonprofit owner and operator – announced that Kurt Carmen would be the organization's executive director, a newly created position.
Carmen comes to Worthington with 44 years of experience in the aquatics industry.
A lifeguard in his youth, Carmen got a social-work degree from Ohio State University before becoming a high school swimming coach and launching his aquatics-oriented career.
Since then, he has trained distance swimmers for the Egyptian Olympic team, served as a private swimming coach in Idaho, helped launch the Atlanta Swim Center, managed a pool in Toledo and oversaw the construction of the new aquatics facilities at Ohio State.
He said by the time he retired from Ohio State, the "theme" of his career had become "facilities that needed to be built."
That's why Swiminc board president Rob Schmidt said Carmen was a perfect fit for the organization.
At 64 years old, the Worthington Pools facility at 400 W. Dublin-Granville Road is showing its age.
In April 2016, Swiminc announced it had secured $1 million in state funding that was meant to go toward a $4.6 million renovation project.
The project included an all-seasons roof over the north pool, which would allow one end to be open for the summer season but still be used during colder weather. Deteriorating pool structures and facilities like bathrooms and snack bars would be renovated, and other amenities would be added along the way.
But with no concrete progress since, Schmidt and others have said are worried state funds could be lost if work doesn't begin soon.
That's where Carmen comes in.
He said he understands what Worthington Pools needs more than most and he appreciates the "unique" situation they're in.
"Self-funding from a (nonprofit) is rare for a pool," he said. "But this group has done an amazing job of keeping the place running."
Carmen's job, he and Schmidt agree, will be to steer the organization from "running" to "thriving."
"They've been under-gunned as a staff," Schmidt said. "SwimInc needs to grow up as an organization."
Th staff, Carmen said, has been "pulled in every direction," something he wants to improve. He also said he is prioritizing efficiency and an improved revenue stream.
But the major battle, he said, will be for public perception.
He said he thinks the pools facility has "a great setting" that can help visitors gloss over the problems that lie under the surface. In the coming months, he said, it's important to communicate to Worthington residents that the pools are in need of work, despite appearances.
"I see the messaging as, 'How do you explain that something that look so beautiful needs this work?' " he said.
Next, Carmen said, he likely will make adjustments to programs at the pools, get an "honest assessment" of what costs will be and "determine where the money is" before making any requests from Worthington City Council, Worthington Schools or the pool's guests.
For Schmidt, Carmen's involvement is a signal that SwimInc is ready to truly save its pool.
"We're all in," he said.
And for Carmen, the "exciting" shot at revitalizing the pool represents a chance "to do your life's work."
"If we fall short of the goal, I want to know we did everything we could to try to get there," he said.