St. Mary’s County is about to lose its shepherd.
Arthur Shepherd is retiring, again, from St. Mary’s County Recreation and Parks after two stints with the department. His last day is June 12.
From 1978 to 2011, Shepherd was a recreation coordinator, programmer and division manager. He retired to pastor and help found Point of Grace, a nondenominational church that met at Park Hall Elementary School.
In 2010, he ran for county commissioner as a Democrat, losing to Republican Daniel Morris in the general election. Shepherd said he ran because he was looking to serve in a greater capacity with his impending retirement.
He decided to return to county government in 2017 as director of the county’s recreation and parks department because he was asked to do so.
A Leonardtown resident who grew up in the Lexington Park area, Shepherd is pleased with recent efforts there, including at Lexington Manor Passive Park, which is located adjacent to John G. Lancaster Park on South Coral Drive near The Newtowne Players’ theater and the Bay District Volunteer Fire Department.
The 40-acre combined park includes new turf fields, playground and fitness equipment, a newly refurbished disc golf course and an interpretive center, the latter which was repurposed from its previous use as a “flattop” building that was used for military housing.
Shepherd notes that on Saturday, June 18, a Juneteenth celebration will be held at the park featuring live music and other activities.
He calls the new park the “front porch to Gate 2” at the nearby Naval Air Station Patuxent River. It hosted a Cherry Blossom Festival on March 26.
During the April 25 St. Mary’s planning commission meeting, Sarah Pryor, a Frederick native who moved to the area to attend college, said the park is beautiful and one of her favorite places to go.
Shepherd said he helped establish a “culture of excellence” in the recreation and parks department, which resulted in improvements to the county’s Wicomico Shores golf course and increased water access to the Patuxent River through Snow Hill Park.
A rebuild of the St. Clement’s Island Museum is pending. The $4.4 million project, which will be a two-story building, is slated to go to bid this summer, Shepherd said.
The department has been pursing national accreditation for the past three years, he said, noting they should know by June 1 whether they qualified. There are 192 nationally accredited recreation and parks departments in the U.S., he said, including five in Maryland.
Shepherd said he was reluctant at first to come back to the department. “I stayed longer than I thought [I would], but I’m glad I did,” he said.
In his second retirement, he plans to volunteer with the Child Evangelism Fellowship Board’s after-school programs that serve Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties. Shepherd said he plans to focus on adding after-school programs in Charles County.
He also plans on spending time with his wife, Linda, and their four adult children and eight grandchildren.