Roaring River park manager retiring in July
Hays to go back to education, hired at Exeter as history teacher
Some people start careers in one field, then transition to another, only to find themselves coming full circle and back to the original job.
That is the case for Roaring River State Park Manager Kerry Hays, who is retiring from Missouri State Parks on July 31 and returning to where he says he will make the greatest difference — the classroom.
Before moving to Missouri, Hays taught at a private school in Chicago for 14 years. After more than 8 years with Missouri State Parks, including 3 as the manager of Roaring River, he has accepted a history teacher job at the Exeter school district. Hays will teach U.S. history, geography and government at Exeter.
"I turned 62 this year and when looking at the 3 or 4 more years I have to work, I asked myself where I would make the greatest difference, and I believe that is in a classroom teaching history," he said. "I have a history degree and always loved to teach, so I'm very excited about the opportunity."
In his time at Roaring River, Hays said he's proud of all he and his team have accomplished.
"Over a period of time, we were able to bring the park's maintenance back up to where it should be," he said. "We also got more than 100 kids involved in the state parks youth corps, and I was here for the major renovation of the CCC Lodge. That's something I'm pretty proud of and glad I had the opportunity to be a part of."
Hays gave credit to his employees for the accomplishments achieved since he was hired as manager in April 2014.
"I work with a great team of people here who work hard to give visitors the service they deserve," he said. "Any time we have severe weather, they spring into action. We had 2 major events when I was here, the microburst in 2012 and the flooding in 2015."
In looking forward, Hays said there are a few things his successor should know.
"There's more to it than just managing the campgrounds," he said. "Roaring River State Park is 4,800 acres, and only 800 of that is recreational. So, you have to be aware of its size and act as a natural resource manager for the whole park. You have to keep everything balanced and tap into the strengths of the people you work with.
"I've really enjoyed my time working with Missouri State Parks, and I'm looking forward to the next chapter in my life."
In seeking a replacement, Missouri State Parks will use its Missouri Merit System, which grades applicants and orders them based on a number of factors.