WENDELL — Brinkley Wagstaff is a teacher at heart.
Oh, sure, hes held other jobs. He was the director of facility services with the N.C. State athletics department. And, at least for a few more months, he will retain the title of Wendell Parks and Recreation Director. But, first and foremost, Wagstaff was a teacher.
And that educators heart is what his Wendell colleagues mention first when they look back over Wagstaffs career leading the towns Parks and Recreation Department.
Wagstaff told Wendell Town Manager Teresa Piner earlier this month, that he plans to retire at the end of June.
That will close the books on a 13-year tenure in Wendell for Wagstaff.
This was something we had been talking about since last year, and we were kind of looking at December as a retirement date, Wagstaff said. But with my brothers illness, that just kind of crystallized it for me and I decided to step down in June.
Wagstaffs brother, Rusty, underwent a well-publicized bout with a blood infection that nearly killed him and forced doctors to amputate his legs and hands to keep him alive. Rusty Wagstaff, after his release from Rex Hospital, flew to Minnesota for rehabilitation and is expected to return to his Zebulon home soon.
Rustys going to need me to do some things for him and there are things I want to do for him, so this will allow me to do all that, Wagstaff said.
Those who worked with Wagstaff say his loss will be a big one for the town. Piner, Wagstaffs boss, calls it a big loss.
Brinkley is going to be a difficult one to replace. He brings with him so much. Hes not just a department head, but a teacher. He does that with everybody who walks through his door, Piner said. Hes my Andy Griffith. He even has that tune on his cell phone. Hes someone you can sit down with and when you leave, you feel wiser.
Wendell Town Commissioner Jon Lutz sounded a similar refrain. When I joined the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, that was my first experience with government and Brinkley sat down with me and put me through an orientation so Id have some idea of the programs and the facilities the town had, Lutz said.
Wagstaff credits people hes worked with and those who preceded him with setting up good situations for him, but, like Lutz and Piner, Wagstaff often returns to his roots as a teacher.
I was an average classroom teacher, Wagstaff admits, but I happened to be there (at Garner and Broughton High Schools) at a good time. I was surrounded by really good people. And good baseball players too, who won state titles for him at both schools. I was smart enough to know that they didnt really need me to tell them what to do. I just had to make sure they all got on the bus and made it to the game,
Wagstaff left high school coaching to join the staff at N.C. State where, again, he was surrounded by good people including Wendell resident and Wolfpack golf coach Richard Sykes and associate athletics director Nora Lynn Finch. When he came to the job in Wendell, he took the reins just a few months after his predecessor, Chris Wiley, had completed construction of the Wendell Community Center.
Any job has its ups and downs. Wagstaff says hes proudest of the towns ability to increase the size of Wendell Park under his tenure. When we purchased the Clark property, that was really a big deal. Then we added some more property and now weve got a 100-acre park in the center of town, Wagstaff said. Chief among his disappointments, he says, is the town hasnt had the funding to see other projects through.
The town will accept applications for Wagstaffs position until April 18. Piner said she hopes to have a replacement in place by the time Wagstaffs June 30 retirement arrives. Brinkley has promised he wouldnt leave me in a lurch. If we arent quite ready by then, hes said he would still be around, Piner said.
Sort of like that teacher who stays late after class.
Whitfield: 919-829-4823; Twitter: @easternwakenews