(MANHATTAN, Kan. – March 10, 2023) — Manhattan City Manager Ron Fehr announced today that Aaron Stewart, who currently serves as Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Garden City, has been hired as Manhattan’s new Director of Parks and Recreation, with an anticipated start date of April 17.
Stewart replaces former Parks and Recreation Director Eddie Eastes, who retired in May 2022. (Assistant Director Wyatt Thompson has filled the position on an interim basis since.)
Stewart will oversee the City’s Parks and Recreation Department (MPRD), which provides numerous recreation opportunities for the Manhattan community, including park facilities, recreation centers, pools, an ice rink, an animal shelter, Sunset Zoo, and the Flint Hills Discovery Center.
Among other duties, Stewart will work to ensure MPRD establishes, preserves, and manages parks and recreational resources to develop opportunities for play, health and wellness, entertainment, skill development, socialization, and enjoyment for all citizens.
“We are pleased to have Aaron join our team,” Fehr said. “Aaron has great experience and enthusiasm, which will serve him well in this position.”
Stewart is a Kansas native with more than 25 years of parks and recreation experience in a municipal setting. He currently serves as Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Garden City, where he is responsible for leading a department that operates 11 parks (totaling 640 acres), an aquatics facility, all recreational programming, an accredited zoo, and a nationally ranked golf course. He manages a $9 million budget and leads a team comprising 63 full-time staff and 250 part-time employees.
His prior experience includes four years as superintendent for the Garden City Recreation Commission, two years as sports coordinator for the Carbon Valley Parks and Recreation District in Colorado, and a total of six years with the City and County of Broomfield, also in Colorado.
Stewart is a Certified Parks and Recreation Professional who holds a bachelor of science degree in parks and recreation administration from Kansas State University, graduating in 2003. He is also a graduate of the National Parks and Recreation Association’s Director’s School.
“I am truly honored to be selected as the Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Manhattan,” Stewart said. “I knew from an early age that there is something special about Manhattan, and to be given the opportunity to come back to the community to raise my family and be a part of the Parks and Recreation Department is a dream come true!”
Under the direction of the Deputy City Manager, the Director of Parks and Recreation is responsible for leading, planning, and managing all activities and operations of the department, its seven divisions, and a nearly $10 million annual budget. Stewart will oversee a team of 105 full-time employees and an additional 600-plus seasonal workers.
Stewart is married and has two sons — Acie, 11, and Gunner, 6. His wife, Jamie, currently serves as Communications Director for the City of Garden City.