Palm Coast - If you've ever attended big events in the city of Palm Coast like Fireworks in the Park, Food Truck Tuesday or the Starlight Parade, you may have met one of the main orchestrators behind all of the fun: It's Lauren Johnston.
Twelve years ago her love for kids inspired her to join the City's Parks & Recreation Department as a summer camp counselor. To her, it's the youngest age where you can make an impact on a child's life, calm their fears, encourage them and change their whole perspective.
Over the years, she has risen the ranks from Counselor to Recreation Specialist to Interim Director and now Director.
"I was very humbled when Mr. Morton announced in front of our top leadership and my closest friends of the promotion," said Lauren Johnston. "I feel honored to serve our City and residents alongside my colleagues who have watched me grow through the years from counselor to now director. We have a strong team in place and I am looking forward to continually moving the department in a positive direction.
Johnston has already demonstrated strong leadership in overseeing the newly renovated Palm Coast Community Center and serving as Co-Team Leader on FEST (Festival Event SERT Team). Johnston has played an integral role in many of the City's popular special events, including State of the City, Thanksgiving Feet to Feast 5K, and the Tree Lighting Ceremony. She also managed adult and senior programs and created several popular events and classes for residents that fit recreational themes like art, health and wellness and those that keep seniors socially active in the community.
"Lauren has been a valued member of the Parks and Rec department for a long time and has consistently shown both the initiative and the leadership qualities the department needs moving forward," said City Manager Matthew Morton. "It was clear that she earned this position because of her energy and insight as well as her motivation to serve the community with a people-first mindset. She was always exactly what we were looking for."
Since being named Interim Director, she has reinforced relationships with community groups. For example, the Sports Alliance sat stalled. But now, with her leadership and new energy into the group, Parks and Rec is now positioned to better offer City park facilities to more teams in Palm Coast. She's also worked with other organizations such as Flagler County Schools and Flagler County Rotary to involve Parks and Rec in local civic events.
It's that motivation for change that has her transforming other areas of the City. For example, the Leisure Services Advisory Committee hadn't met for more than a year. But under Johnston, it is in the works to be repurposed into a Parks and Rec foundation which will provide more community support and additional funding through grants that may have not been available to local governments. In short, this foundation could supply summer camp scholarships, build facilities or replace slides ultimately benefiting local families.
Johnston is a current student at Flagler College pursuing her Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration and will graduate in the fall of 2020.
Johnston grew up in Georgia but has been a resident of Flagler County since 2005 and graduated from Matanzas High School. She is married and has one son and two dogs. Johnston is active in her church and community and is passionate about establishing partnerships with other community organizations in the county.