Posted on January 6, 2009.
Longtime high school football coach and resort executive Bob Fitzgerald has been named by Mayor Billy Kenoi to be the county’s new Director of Parks and Recreation.
Fitzgerald brings the combination of a strong business sense and a passion for youth sports to the Kenoi administration that will serve the recreational needs of Big Island residents well, Kenoi said.
“I am really honored that someone of the caliber of Bob Fitzgerald has made this commitment to serve the people of Hawaii County,” Kenoi said.
A Kealakekua resident, Fitzgerald will be leaving his position at Wyndham Vacation Resorts where, as sales manager, he recruited, trained, and managed 50 sales and marketing professionals and 50 support staff, generating millions in annual timeshare sales.
He also is an advocate for youth sports in West Hawaii.
Fitzgerald moved to Kona in 1978 to start a family flower business, but after working as a special education teacher for a short time at Konawaena High School, he was asked to help out with the football team.
He then contributed to 12 BIIF championships and started the Ellison Onizuka Memorial football game and the Macadamia Nut Bowl, which evolved into the “Neighbor Island Playoffs.”
In 1992, he took the Konawaena championship football team to its first ever out-of-state exhibition games in Alaska and brought numerous football clinics to the Big Island through the University of Hawaii’s football staff. He coached the Kona Ikaika semi-pro football team from 1996 to 2002.
Fitzgerald’s love of sports and kids eventually led him to serve on the board of directors of the West Hawaii Youth Council, where he helped secure government and private funding for the construction of the Old Kona Airport Park’s baseball, soccer and football fields, and roller hockey rink.
Fitzgerald said he believes athletics is a primary means of helping island youth and he views sports as the gateway to success for kids.
Over the last six years, while working at Wyndham, Fitzgerald still managed to contribute as an assistant coach for Hawaii Preparatory Academy for two championship years and for the 2008 championship Konawaena football team.
“Bob Fitzgerald’s decades of experience in business and management and his outstanding work with the West Hawaii Youth Council, investing many years creating excellent recreational opportunities for our kids, will be a real asset to our administration,” Kenoi said.
As an advocate for more youth programs during his recent campaign, Kenoi looks forward to Fitzgerald working with the state Department of Education to provide “Safe Havens” for extended after-school activities in public school gyms, playgrounds and pools.
“His enthusiasm, intensity and dedication to our island’s youth athletic programs as well as his business acumen will combine to serve the people of Hawaii County well as head of the Parks and Recreation Department,” Kenoi said.
Fitzgerald, a California native and 30-year Hawaii County resident, played football for two years on a scholarship at Colorado State University and graduated with a major in environmental planning and minor in political science from San Diego State University in 1976.
“I have always dreamed of an opportunity to put some of my recreational ideas for this island into action,” Fitzgerald said
The Department of Parks and Recreation provides a variety of recreational and cultural programs and services at 140 facilities, including swimming pools, golf courses, a zoo and equestrian center.
The department also administers operations of the County Band, the Alae and Veterans’ cemeteries, and is responsible for elderly programs for nutrition, senior employment, retired volunteers and coordinated chore and transportation services.