HAINES CITY – Another day, another high-ranking official hired in Haines City.

Ryan Ritchie, 34, is the city’s new deputy parks and recreation director. The announcement was made last week.

“Haines City has proven they can host large events, whether it’s their own – Ribs on the Ridge or Thunder on the Ridge – but they have also proven they can host a global brand like Ironman 70.3 FL and national governing bodies like Youth Basketball of America,” Ritchie said in an email. “The opportunity is there and I will work with our team to enhance our portfolio of events.”

Ritchie most recently worked as sales and event representative for Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing and had been with that entity since April 2014. Ritchie worked as athletics coordinator for Haines City's parks and recreation department from October 2009 to August 2010.

“Haines City has always had a place in my heart and I look forward to being back there,” Ritchie said. “I am looking forward to working with Deric Feacher and our city administration in moving Haines City forward – it’s their tagline but it’s powerful. I am looking forward to working with Terrell Griffin and our team in accomplishing our goals. I couldn’t be any more excited for this opportunity and I am humbled I was selected for this position.”

Ritchie was selected from a pool of more than 100 applicants. That field was narrowed down to 10 for phone interviews and then five for in-person interviews.

“What allowed him to rise above the rest was his interpersonal skills,” said Terrell Griffin, the city’s parks and recreation director. “During our recent Ironman, I had a chance to watch him interact in his natural environment. With us having such a diverse population of people, that was important to me.”

Ritchie earned his bachelor’s degree from State University of New York at Cortland in 2007 and is a native of Upstate New York. He and his wife, Kathy, have a 5-year-old daughter named Giuliana. When not on the job, Ritchie still enjoys sports and recreation. He’s an avid golfer and big fan of the Buffalo Bills, Syracuse Orange, Boston Red Sox and Buffalo Sabres.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the experiences I have learned from previous employers, especially at Polk County Sports Marketing,” he said. “I had the opportunity to learn from the best of the best in the state of Florida. Fortunately the skills I have and the experiences I gained at Polk County Sports Marketing are transferable so it will make for an easy transition.”

Ritchie will be paid $64,000 annually and will manage day-to-day operations, special events and library services. Ritchie will replace Jeff Jones, who recently left to take a job in his native Georgia.

"In terms of challenges – the growth in East Polk County is happening at such a rapid rate, trying to keep up with it will be a challenge but Haines City is such a perfect destination for families traveling the (U.S.) 27 corridor who are visiting the attractions like LEGOLAND and Bok Tower Gardens,” Ritchie said. “We need to capture that growth and bring those visitors to our area. We also need the community to buy into our goals and objectives in what we are trying to achieve as a department.”

Ritchie becomes the third deputy director hired by the city over the last month along with Jerry Connolly, the deputy police chief, and Jeffrey Brown, deputy city manager. Ritchie also comes from a long line of Polk County Sports Marketing employees under Director Mark Jackson to take jobs in the community. Others include Auburndale Parks and Recreation Director Cody McGhee, Zach Burek, general manager of the Lakeland Flying Tigers; and Dawn Decaminada, the county’s business assistance manager.

“Mark Jackson always preaches, ‘Prosperity through partnerships’,” Ritchie said. “Over my career, I have worked hard to build great relationships with everyone. It’s an investment and it can take years but eventually things will work out in your favor. I hope to use those relationships I have built over time and introduce them to the city of Haines City and our community.”

Mike Ferguson can be reached at Mike.Ferguson@theledger.com or 863-401-6981. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.