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Thursday August 18th

Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation hires new assistant director

Atuya Cornwell poses for a portrait in Umstead Park on April 1, 2022.
Buy Photos Atuya Cornwell poses for a portrait in Umstead Park on April 1, 2022.

The Town of Chapel Hill has announcedAtuya Cornwell as the incoming assistant director for the Parks and Recreation department.

He is set to begin working on April 4. At the moment, Cornwell works as assistant division chief for the Youth & Countywide Sports Division of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, specifically for Prince George's County's Department of Parks and Recreation.

As a North Carolina native, Cornwell is excited about this opportunity to come back home.

“I feel like I’m coming back to North Carolina and coming to the Town of Chapel Hill as a more seasoned professional with a lot more experience, a lot more ideas, a lot more really impactful, strategic partners,” he said.

Cornwell will be responsible for overseeing daily operations, staff and division managers, Parks and Recreation Director Phil Fleischmann said. He will also be in charge of outlining data points regarding public participation and responses to local events.

In organizing events for the Town, he hopes to work with companies that he has previously built relationships and connections with, like USA Basketball and USA Lacrosse.

He was motivated to join the world of sports and recreation upon seeing his father — a Vietnam war veteran who was paralyzed four months after Cornwell's birth – become a paralympic athlete and an advocate for individuals with disabilities. 

“Growing up, it was really cool because my dad was more than an athlete," he said. "He did so much."

Fleischmann noted Cornwell's relatability, strong leadership and communications skills as strong traits that set him apart during the selection process. 

“We’re really eager to have him join our team, and he has a really strong background in athletics and recreation programming and operations,” Fleischmann said.

In his current position, Cornwell helped create the Youth & Countywide Sports division, where he helped onboard incoming staff and set up strategic plans for the division.

Tommy Paolucci, the Youth & Countywide Sports division chief and close colleague of Cornwell, said he noticed many instances of Cornwell's thoughtfulness and professionalism — both inside and outside of the workplace. 

“Everybody loves Atuya," Paolucci said. "He’s genuine, he’s professional, he’s experienced."

Prior to his work in Maryland, he worked for the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation department — the start of nearly two decades working in public sector recreation, athletic operations and programming roles. 

But he is also excited about the prospects of his new role in Chapel Hill. 

“I really saw it as an opportunity to expand my experiences within the field,” he said.

Cornwell said he was impressed by the Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation department's proactiveness during the pandemic, citing their ability to provide an outlet during a difficult time.

“Parks and Recreation was an essential tool through this pandemic because there were things that you were able to do in a socially-distanced manner and participate in safe activities,” Cornwell said.

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