Seminole Mayor Jimmy Johnson, left, and Vice Mayor Leslie Waters present outgoing Seminole Recreation Director Jim Sheets with a plaque commemorating his work with the city over the past 12 years. Sheets received the award at the City Council meeting on Aug. 14. He is leaving to begin a youth triathlon consulting and management business.
SEMINOLE – During her senior year at the University of West Florida, Becky Gunter was approached by the college’s top recreation official.
After Gunter spent a couple of years working in the Student Recreation Department, Bill Healey, UWF’s director of recreation and sports services, suggested a career in recreation might be a good fit.
“He said if I wanted to get a master’s degree you can make this a career, if that’s your choice,” she recalled.
It took her a split-second to make the decision. Recreation would definitely be her future.
Now, after 10 years of moving up the ladder, Gunter reached a longtime goal when she was recently named recreation director for the city of Seminole.
She replaces Jim Sheets who is resigning to run his own business.
“This is a goal I’ve been working toward since college,” said Gunter, a 32-year-old Leesburg native. “I’m sure I’m going to put my own stamp on the program.”
Her track record would indicate that.
She brings a history of achievement to the job that began shortly after she graduated from the University of North Texas with a master’s degree in kinesiology, health promotion and recreation.
While at North Texas, she gained a multitude of recreation management experience that qualified her for a variety of positions in the administrative side of recreation.
Although she enjoyed the culture and lifestyle of Texas, her heart was in Florida and being closer to the water.
So after applying for positions at the university level, a cruise line and a few resorts, her dad John Gunter, himself a Fruitland Park city councilor, suggested she try the municipal level. A quick look at the Florida Parks and Recreation Association website resulted in an application in the Palm Beach County community of Greenacres for a recreation specialist position.
She was hired in August 2004 and was put in charge of programs for the city’s community center. Six months later, she was promoted to recreation supervisor and put in charge of special events for the city.
While in that position, she learned quickly about revenue cuts. About the same time, the city went to a cost recovery stance on all events, which meant if it didn’t make money, it didn’t stay.
In 2010, she moved on to the city of Palm Coast where she was named recreation superintendent.
“It was the next step for me because my goal has always been to be a director,” Gunter said.
At Palm Coast, she was essentially the assistant director and watched over programs, recreation supervisors and facilities.
While there, Gunter gained valuable management experience in the city’s Leadership and Training Experience Program. She worked as a team leader for a group of six that was assigned to help the nearby Florida Agricultural Museum.
All the while, she had her mind set on becoming a director.
So when the opportunity to apply in Seminole came about, Gunter didn’t hesitate.
“We have it all here,” she said. “We have an outstanding facility and very good equipment. We have a good recreation crew and we’re known in the community for producing quality events.
“What I would like to do is look at everything and see where we can fill in a need. The opportunity to do things here is great. So I’d like to make this a one-stop shop for recreation.”
Among the things she is considering are more senior bus trips and additional marketing of the city’s pool and aquatics program.
Gunter is the daughter of John and Dee Gunter of Fruitland Park. She has one brother, Keith, who works as Public Works superintendent for the Volusia County town of Ponce Inlet.
In high school, Gunter was a member of the Key Club and helped organize homecoming activities. She was also a cheerleader from high school through her college years at UWF.