When he first began his career, "I defined recreation like a lot of people, more in terms of sport," said Paul Herbert, director of Cornelius Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture or PARC department.
Herbert, who boasts more than 30 years experience in the parks and recreation field, has since learned that parks and recreation are about much more.
His son Neville, 28, " is a long time Special Olympian and has taught me much about the 'specialness' in special needs," Herbert said. "He has benefited his entire life from the wonderful therapeutic recreation programs in Mecklenburg County's Department of Parks and Recreation, where I worked for many years."
It was no accident that Herbert, who admits to an early love of the outdoors, found himself working in parks and recreation.
"I remember always being fascinated with nature and parks," said the Dilworth native.
He enjoyed fishing at Freedom Park and taking weekend nature trips offered through the Nature Museum.
Herbert, who now lives in Davidson, began his career in 1975 at the Community School of the Arts before moving into leadership roles at the S.C. Arts Commission and the Charlotte and Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation departments.
It was at the Community School of the Arts in Charlotte that Herbert really began to appreciate the arts.
"CSA was different," because it made the arts accessible to everyone "regardless of their skills or their ability to pay," said Herbert.
He adds, though, that his passion for what he does is also mixed with challenges.
"Finding the resources for creating a livable, active and healthy community is challenging," he said.
But he doesn't shy away from difficult tasks, as he has a strong sense of pride in what his department has accomplished and will achieve.
"Cornelius has enjoyed the successes of sound fiscal management and has made significant investments in its people through the building of some wonderful parks, greenways and special facilities," Herbert said. "I am appreciative to be a part of that."
When he isn't busy running the department, Herbert is active in the Rotary Club of Lake Norman. He is also an avid photographer and family man, who just celebrated his 21-year anniversary with his wife, Betty.
"I love to take photos, mostly of my family," said Herbert who has recently "taken to photographing hummingbirds, a magical little animal."
Herbert is celebrating a personal victory of losing and keeping off 67 pounds, which lowered his blood sugar and cholesterol and alleviated his sleep apnea.
"Part of the secret is, of course, exercise. My wife and I began bike riding and made a real commitment to eating healthy foods," said Herbert.
"We both feel great."
"As the director of a parks and recreation program," said Herbert, the successful weight loss "has really opened up possibilities for helping others who struggle with weight and want to take control of their health."