MOULTRIE -- When Terry Peek, coach of the the Thomaston-Upson Stingrays, brought his team to the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association's State Swimming Championships in Moultrie last July, he had already applied for vacant recreation director position here.

But two members of the Moultrie-Colquitt County Parks and Recreation Department maintenance staff were not aware of that when Peek thanked them their work during the swim meet.

While accepting the kind words from the visitor, the two spoke in glowing terms about the recreation department.

"They seemed excited about their job," said Peek. "It made you want to be part of the team. I thought, 'There must be something good going on here.'"

Four months later, Peek accepted the job as the recreation director in Colquitt County, replacing Rick Gehle, who left last summer to take over as director of facilities for the Colquitt County school system.

Peek brings nearly three decades of recreation experience, including 25 as a recreation director.

The Thomaston native was the assistant director in his hometown before becoming the first director of the Camden County recreation department in 1979.

After establishing that program, in 1987 he returned to Upson County, where he was the recreation director for the last 17 years.

It was a job he says he expected to keep until he retired.

"I can't tell you exactly why I put my hat into the ring," Peek said recently in his office in the Jim Buck Goff Receation Complex.

"I just had the urge to explore and see what was out there, to see what was available. I just followed the Lord's lead."

The Colquitt County recreation department is somewhat bigger than the one in Upson County, which has about 27,000 people in the county and about 12,000 in Thomaston.

Peek's first brush with Moultrie came in 1975 when, just out of Georgia Southwestern, he went to Spence Field to help Jim Buck Goff coordinate some recreation events for a group campers.

His next visit was three years ago when he brought the Stingrays, which he coached, to the state swim meet for the first time.

The community and the what it had to offer in the way of recreation intrigued him.

"I was impressed with the facilities," he said. "What better facilities can you have than what we've got right here?"

And he has not been disappointed since reporting to work in January.

"The community support here has been exceptional," he said. "Everybody is proud of the program and the facilities here.

"I've just been totally surprised by how many people help. We've got an excellent partnership with the schools and with the YMCA."

And while the facilities are among the best in the state for departments of its size, there are still areas that need attention.

Peek said maintenance of the the facilities is a continuing challenge. Practice times for youth baseball teams are being rationed, youth football games are being played on softball fields and several fields still need irrigation.

Peek said he is especially looking forward to the dedication of the new bath house at the recreation department's swimming pool.

The dedication is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Tuesday, April 20.

Peek also took over a staff that had recently lost two of its members.

Phil Gregory, who had served as interim director when Gehle left, moved to Cairo.

And longtime women's and girls sports director Beth Redding retired in December.

But Peek was able to hire Lynn Bennett from Adel, where he had been athletic director for the Adel-Cook Recreation Department since 1989.

"I feel like we stole a plum," Peek said of being able to get Bennett on board.

Peek said that even though she is retired, Redding has been helping Bennett and will coach a boys baseball team.

"She's still active in the program," Peek said.

The recreation staff also in- cludes Jim Burrows, James Kling, Samuel Stewart and Connie Leigh, whom he calls the recreation department's "administrative assistant."

"It's a blessing having people like that to work with," Peek said. "We've got good people here. They seem to be happy and work well together."

And Peek said he does not plan to be "parked behind a desk."

He coached the recreation and high school swim teams in Thomaston and said he wants to contribute to the aquatics program in Colquitt County

"It's stress relief for me," he said.

But he made it clear that he has the utmost respect for Colquitt County swimming coach Pierre Rogers.

"Pierre is an excellent swim coach and an excellent teacher," Peek said. "He knows swimming.

"I think Moultrie is fortunate to have him."

And while not as familiar with diving, Peek said he is certainly aware of the Moss Farms program and is history of producing many of the top divers in the country.

"I've pledged to help them as much as I can," Peek said. "I applaud all of their efforts and work.

"I want all of our programs to continue to have high visibility."

Peek and wife Laura, a Brunswick native, have three children.

Oldest son Chuck is a former high school valedictorian and currently a student at LaGrange College, where he is on the swim team.

Younger son Matt is a senior at Upson-Lee High, where he is the school's STAR Student and has accepted a scholarship to LaGrange College.

Peek said that Matt has been preaching for several years and after college plans to enter a seminary to study for the ministry.

Both of his sons have been battalion commanders in the school's Junior ROTC program.

Daughter Amy is a student at Willie J. Williams Middle School, where she is an excellent student. She is a member of the swim team.

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