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Head of Sunrise Park district to retire this month

Sunrise Recreation and Park District Administrator Dave Mitchell stands at Rusch Park during an interview in May 2023. // S. Williams

By Sara Beth Williams–
After 11 years with the local parks district, Sunrise Recreation and Park District Administrator Dave Mitchell is retiring from his role in overseeing parks in the area, including 25 parks in Citrus Heights.

Since joining the local park district, Mitchell said the district has replaced five playgrounds within Citrus Heights, completed construction of Arcade Creek Park Reserve in 2014 and will complete Mitchell Village Park later this year, adding one more park to Citrus Heights. Mitchell and SRPD, in collaboration with multiple organizations within Sacramento, Orangevale and Citrus Heights, was also instrumental in implementing the construction of the Arcade-Cripple Creek multi-use trail project.

In an interview last month, Mitchell told The Sentinel he was drawn to the field of recreation in college, where he worked in the Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation District over the summers. After graduating from California State University of Sacramento with a degree in recreation administration, he then spent the majority of his decades-long career working with the Sacramento County Parks and Recreation District.

In 2012, Mitchell said he applied for the local position at SRPD because he “needed a change” and his wife suggested he apply.

“I’d always heard great things,” Mitchell said of SRPD. “I never looked back.”

Mitchell said the parks district also reopened the Historic Rusch Home under his tenure. Before 2012, the home had been closed and utilized for storage. In November of 2012, SRPD and the City of Citrus Heights History and Arts Commission partnered together to open the Rusch Home to the public for viewing. Now, the home can be reserved for events and tours.

According to the district’s website, the historic home was constructed in the 1850s, but the original structure burned down, and the new structure was completed in 1914. In 1977, the Rusch Home and Gardens were added to Rusch Park.

Working 39 years in recreation and administration did not come without its challenges, The Covid-19 pandemic was “one year of rough,” Mitchell said, adding that he does not want the pandemic to define his career. In terms of career challenges, Mitchell said enduring the recession years from 2008 through 2012 while working in Sacramento city was more difficult than the short-lived pandemic restrictions imposed upon the Sunrise Recreation and Park District in 2020.

“People wanted recreation. As soon as we opened our doors, we filled right back up,” Mitchell said, applauding the Citrus Heights community for being “resilient.”

Councilmember Porsche Middleton, who has served on the Citrus Heights City Council since 2018, said Mitchell leaves behind an “extraordinary legacy,” adding that his “visionary leadership and unwavering dedication have transformed the district, making a lasting impact on the community.”

“Sunrise has been a fabulous place to work,” Mitchell said, adding that he has been both “thrilled” and “fortunate” to work with the City of Citrus Heights.

In retirement, Mitchell and his wife plan to travel and live abroad and spend more time with their adult children and extended family members.

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