WESTERLY — Paul Duffy, the town's long-serving recreation director, has resigned, deciding to leave a few days before the unofficial start to summer — Memorial Day Weekend.
Town Manager J. Mark Rooney declined to say whether Duffy explained why he decided to leave when he announced his resignation on May 20. "As a general policy I don't usually discuss personnel matters," Rooney said, adding that he wished Duffy well.
Duffy, who worked for the town for 18 years, was praised by Rooney others recently for his work on securing a $70,800 grant for improvements at the town's Bradford Preserve property, where the Westerly Youth Lacrosse plays along with other sports groups.
Duffy was also instrumental in guiding development of the Athletic Facilities Master Plan. Completed in 2017, the plan is intended to help guide recreation programming decisions for a five- to 10-year period. Compiled by the BCS Group, a consultancy based in Glastonbury, Conn., the plan outlines the need for about $7 million worth of work at town and school facilities.
Ed Haik, Recreation Board chairman, said Duffy also played an imporant role in the town's recovery from Superstorm Sandy and the damage it did to the town's beaches in 2012.
"Paul was an asset to the town of Westerly for almost 19 years. He devoted his time to build recreation and create the beach environment that we are all blessed to share today. He was the working force after Hurricane Sandy, helping to rebuild our Town Beach and the pavilion.
Haik also noted Duffy's work on the master plan.
"Paul was also instrumental in writing and acquiring many grants for recreation. He worked very hard with the Recreation Board and we pushed him hard and was a leader in developing our Westerly recreation master plan which provides a footprint for upgrades and renovations to our facilities for the next 5-10 years," Haik said.
The Recreation Board and Haik were not aware that Duffy planned to leave, Haik said. "But I do know that he had a plan in place for the rest of the summer that included COVID-19 preparations and guidelines for the beach and our recreation programs," Haik said.
Rooney said he had appointed Julia Beasley to serve as interim director of the Recreation Department. Beasley had previously served as program and beach director, a position she started in 2018.
"Julia Beasley and Paul worked closely together and had a vision for recreation. Julia will move the Recreation Department in the right direction and is already making an impact. We have a lot going on right now, trying to work with youth leagues to start back, manage the opening of the beach, secure grants, plan summer camps, et cetera. It's a lot of work but Julia is the perfect fit for us. We look forward to continuing to support her in every way possible," Haik said.
Rooney said he planned to hire an administrative assistant to work with Beasley but would not immediately fill the vacancy created by Duffy's departure and would instead wait to see what effect the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the state budget and state financial assistance to the town and school system.
Duffy did not return a message seeking comment for this article.