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Recreation Director Leaves City Government After 29 Years

Mike Blackwell Left Recreation Director Job on August 31 to Lead "First Tee"
Blackwell and Cahill
Mike Blackwell and Mayor Jim Cahill Charlie Kratovil

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The city's longtime Recreation Director has left his city job, sparking a fierce but quiet competition to replace him.

Michael Blackwell served as Cahill's Recreation Director for most of his 24 years in office, and worked for the city for over 29 years and boasted of building multiple New Brunswick teen centers.

"Mike Blackwell's final day of work with the City was August 31. His salary was $84,467," said city spokesperon Jennifer Bradshaw.

"Thank you for a wonderful career as Superintendent of Recreation for the City of New Brunswick," Blackwell posted on Facebook.

One source told New Brunswick Today there were nine candidates in the running to replace him, including Board of Education member Edward Spencer.

Spencer's name is already listed on the NBRec.com website as "Director," but no final decision had been made as of September 28.

"A replacement for Mike has not yet been found, but the City hopes to fill the position as soon as possible, with a decision expected in the coming weeks," Bradshaw wrote. "The existing Recreation staff has taken on the duties handled by the Director in the interim."

Blackwell is now the Executive Director of First Tee of Raritan Valley, an organization based in Kenilworth that he helped start years ago.

According to the their website, the New Jersey Youth Development Foundation and First Tee's mission "is to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values, and promote healthy choices through the game of golf."

Blackwell said that, once a modest project in New Brunswick, Highland Park, and North Brunswick, the organization now spans six counties, nine golf facilities, over 100 schools, and some after school programs.

Blackwell's retirement was mentioned by City Councilman John Anderson at a September 17 public meeting.  Anderson added that Blackwell's "number two" also left city employment.

"I just wanted to thank him for his service," said Anderson.

"Mike Blackwell has been with the city awhile," said City Council President Kevin Egan. "He's retired and he's no longer the city Recreation Director."

Blackwell lives in the Sixth Ward of New Brunswick, and he will continue to help with the annual Soap Box Derby.  His son is a city firefighter who Blackwell says is following in his footsteps by getting involved in local programs.

Also ending her career with the Recreation Department was Nydia Adorno, who left the $30,722 job working under Blackwell.

Blackwell told New Brunswick Today that Adorno's "dream came true" when she became a pre-K teacher in New Brunswick this fall.  Her last day with the city was also August 31.