New Parks & Rec. director finds rewarding career path

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Liz Francis, the new director of the Canton Parks and Recreation Department, came to her current role after working in a variety of positions related to sports and recreation.

“I always knew I enjoyed being active and playing sports. I didn’t believe that would be my career path,” Francis said. “Sometimes you have to find what you want to do.”

Liz Francis

Liz Francis

A native of Raynham, Francis grew up playing basketball and soccer. At Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High School, she continued with those two sports and was a member of the track and field team. Baseball and softball didn’t appeal to her, however. “Too much standing,” Francis explained. “I enjoy running all the time.”

She did her undergraduate studies in political science at Providence College, thinking she would be a lawyer. She worked in the Rhode Island State House, an experience that changed her mind about a career in law.

Instead, Francis considered becoming a teacher or coach. She received a master’s degree in physical education with a concentration in sports management from Springfield College and then set out to find what she wanted to do.

“I actually started my career as a women’s soccer coach at a college,” she said. “I thought I was going to be an athletic director.”

Francis coached at Providence College and Colorado College. It was while she was in Colorado that she realized that she missed the East Coast, her family, and the ocean. She resigned and accepted a position as the fitness director at the Old Colony YMCA in Taunton. Five years later she decided she needed to take a break from working.

“I honestly was burned out,” she said. “As much as I enjoyed my time with the Y, I needed a break.”

She describes what happened next as irony. She knew someone who was a member of the Raynham Parks and Recreation board and told him that since she now had free time, he should call upon her for help. Three weeks later, he called her and asked if she would be the Raynham Parks and Recreation director. Francis said no.

“He said, ‘How about we go have some lunch?’” Francis recalled. He managed to convince her to apply for the position, and she would go on to hold the job for 10 years before recently taking over in Canton.

“I was able to accomplish a lot of my goals,” Francis said of her time in Raynham. “I like challenges. Canton was perfect for that.”

She began working in town May 1 and has spent most of her time absorbing as much as she can about her new job, meeting people, and learning about the programs that Parks and Recreation offers. “Recreation is changing in the sense that it includes special programs,” she added. “You get the arts, programs that teach skills, babysitting courses. It’s not sports only.”

Francis is looking forward to seeing how Canton’s aquatics program works, noting that she didn’t have that opportunity in Raynham. She’s impressed by the breadth of offerings for Canton residents and mentioned the Edge Extreme summer program as an example of something different that provides opportunities for middle school and high school students to experience outdoor activities. She is very pleased that funds from the Community Preservation Act will provide new playground equipment for the Tilden and Devoll fields. She has also been hiking some of the trails in town to familiarize herself with them.

In her free time, Francis enjoys spending time with her family and being outdoors. She rides a mountain bike, runs, skis, goes to the beach, and plays basketball. “I still play; I’m still bad,” she said. “I enjoy chasing a ball versus running on a treadmill.”

She summed up work and play succinctly: “I’m certainly not bored.”

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