Plan Today to Prepare for the Future

In 2030, the parks and recreation profession will be vastly different from that of 2018. Those agencies that have the desire to plan with a purpose, and then fund and work that plan, will be just fine.

Explore this site to learn more about me, my work in the field, and examples of truly innovated strategies. 

Panel 1

About Tom

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. I could probably argue that I have been in the parks, recreation, and sports field my entire life. As a young child, my father was a Tom Track Meet Startrecreation director, teacher and coach. My memories of accompanying my father and mother to the Pennsylvania Recreation and Parks Society state conferences are still vivid in my mind. When it comes to experience in the field, I grew up around it, I went to college to study it, I worked in the field for almost 40 years, and now I am teaching professionals and students who desire to spend their careers in the field. I think it is safe to say, “I have seen it all!”

I moved to the Charleston, SC area (Mount Pleasant) the following week after I graduated from college, and I’ve been here ever since. I started my career as a high school athletic director and coach. Shortly after my teaching and coaching ended, I had the opportunity to enter the parks and recreation field, the subject that I trained for while in college. I became the director of a large municipal recreation department in Mount Pleasant, and then became the executive director of one of the most successful park districts in our country, the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission. Being a “director” for over 25 years has given me invaluable experience in almost everything relating to our IMG_0727field. My main areas of expertise include agency management, specifically government finance. I have been able to help many who struggled with finding and managing the financial resources.

Professionally I am currently on the faculty of Clemson University as a professor of practice. Professor of practice means I obtained my knowledge and material in the field through experience and expertise, as opposed to academia. Many universities now have professors of practice. I teach the business of entrepreneurial aspects of parks and recreation, and I have been fortunate to have been asked to speak regularly on the topic throughout the US, Canada and Mexico. I also serve as the executive director of the Parklands Foundation of Charleston County, which is Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission’s nonprofit fundraising arm. In November 2017 I was elected to the Mount Pleasant Town Council. I currently serve as a member of the Recreation Committee and also the chair of the Finance Committee, overseeing a $150 million operating budget.

There is a misconception by those close to me that I am retired. I don’t see myself as retired. Hopefully, as long as I am alive, I will be contributing something to someone. My next desire is to use my 40 years of experience in the parks, recreation and sports field to make the parks and recreation industry, and those that work within it, more productive.

IMG_5180Although my professional career has provided much to me, my main priority has always been my family. I met my wife Jackie in college and we have been married for over 39 years. We have three grown children and two grandchildren. The passions and hobbies that my wife and I share have kept us together. We are both very active physically, regularly competing in local runs, races and triathlons. We are avid cyclists and love to scuba dive. My wife and I are also coaches. We started our professional careers as coaches and we both are still volunteer coaching today in track and field.

Panel 2

Top Five Issues

While traveling the country I have had the opportunity to meet with industry professionals and discuss the pertinent issues facing parks, recreation and sports. The following represent what I see as the top five issues facing our profession. The solutions vary based on what community you are in and how your agency is managed, but the issues are mostly the same.

Protect Your Agency

The ability to protect your agency and its mission while contracting with nonprofit organizations, vendors, and partners in park development and programming assistance.

Plan Ahead

Without a plan you will fail. Organizations need master plans and strategic plans that will act as a guiding light for all you do.

Budget Wisely

Finding money and controlling costs are the key to sustaining your park agency. The successful agencies will understand how to find necessary funds and then operate as lean as possible to ensure that you do not expend more than you should.

Build Morale

Agency morale is as important as anything else you do. Morale is not a by-product, it is something that needs to be incorporated into agency management.

Understand Politics

Political environments change every day. It is important to understand this new normal and how you can operate in a very different political climate.

Panel 3


The following are samples of presentations by Tom O’Rourke.

View more sample presentations online.

Presentation: Prevention – Making your Agency Relevant into the Future
Conference: Congress International de Parques Urbanos
Location: Merida, Yucatan, Mexico

Presentation: Cultivating Exceptional Relationships With Those That Govern You
Conference: NRPA National Congress
Location: St. Louis, MO
Panel 4

Industry Innovations

The following are examples of people that are creating greatness throughout the country. Please feel free to use these examples (I have been given permission).