Parks and Recreation Director
Meet Your Parks and Recreation Director Elvin Ulmer
Laurel Parks and Recreation Director Elvin Ulmer loves his job. And why wouldn’t he? “I’ve got the best job in the city,” he said. “I’m at the stage now where it’s not really a job. It’s a passion. It’s not work to me. I love it. I get to make a difference.”
Ulmer and his department make a huge impact on the city and they have the numbers to prove it. The City of Laurel’s Parks and Recreation Department consists of about 40 employees who are responsible for the staffing and maintenance of three public swimming pools, seven interchanges overseen by the Mississippi Department of Transportation, five athletic fields owned by the city’s school district, 10 parks, the train depot, the Ellis Center, the Cameron Center, and two cemeteries. The department also manages every athletic facility in the city which includes 36 ballfields, performs maintenance for every city building including City Hall, the Laurel Police Department, and the city’s five fire stations and provides all the landscaping on city property. Those are impressive numbers.
Another impressive number is 20 - the number of years that Ulmer has worked for the City of Laurel. Although the Laurel native and 1980 graduate of Laurel High School, will tell you that one of the most important numbers in his career is the number eight as in eight-plex.
The Laurel Eightplex is a project that Ulmer has been trying to bring to life since 2005. Originally, the project stalled due to issues with funding. It was revised once a new funding source was developed and the first four fields, of a planned eight, opened in 2021. This project will bring eight new softball fields to Laurel to serve a group often overlooked in sports- young ladies. “Everything other than soccer and swimming was for young men,” Ulmer explained. “We needed something for young women.”
In 2011, Ulmer received certification from the Sports Turf Management Association, the largest organization of its kind in the country. STMA works with turf managers around the country including representatives from the National Football League and Major League Baseball to help them develop their professional skills. Ulmer is one of only two Mississippians to hold this certification. Turf management includes making sports fields aesthetically pleasing but mostly focuses on making sure that the turf has the right density and texture to prevent injuries to athletes who play on the field. “It’s not just looks, it’s the safety of it,” Ulmer explained. “You have to have proper drainage so that the field is not too soft or too wet or too hard. It affects the safety of the athletes and how they perform on it.” Ulmer was recently elected to represent the southern district of the Mississippi Turf Association. He also serves as a board member for the Laurel Airport Authority and the Salvation Army.
When he’s not improving the quality of life for Laurel’s citizens or serving his community through his participation in civic organizations, he enjoys hunting, fishing, coaching sports, and spending time with his family. One final number of import for Ulmer? Three. He and his wife Lisa share three sons; Elvin, Cagney, and Deion. Over the years, he has enjoyed coaching his sons and seeing them enjoy the services provided to young athletes by the city, and it has played a part in how much he enjoys his work. “I like everything about it,” he said about his position. “I get to make a difference. Recreation is a quality-of-life issue, and I get to address it!”