The Ottawa Recreation Commission’s board members soon will see a new face at their meetings.

Dennis Tharp said he would call on his past experiences with local recreation programs and his degree in recreation administration in his new role as a member of the ORC board of directors.

The Ottawa City Commission voted 4-0 Wednesday to appoint Tharp to fill Joe Goedert’s unexpired term on the ORC board through 2016. Goedert, a banker, resigned from the ORC board in mid-March because he had accepted a position with a bank in the Wichita area. Goedert was one of the city’s appointees to the board.

Tharp said Wednesday he was looking forward to serving.

“The ORC is a worthwhile organization, and I think it’s something everyone ought to expend some effort to support,” Tharp said.

Tharp, 56, said he has a bachelor’s degree in recreation administration from Ottawa University, and previously served as a coach with recreation league baseball and softball teams and Ottawa Mat Masters — while his two children were growing up and involved in those sports.

“I grew up in Lenexa, but I came to Ottawa when I was 17 to attend Ottawa University, and I’ve lived here ever since then,” Tharp, superintendent of electrical production for the City of Ottawa, said.

In addition to his current role with the city’s electrical utility, Tharp previously was a partner or owner of Pizza Village for 30 years in Ottawa’s downtown business district. He has worked for the city since 2007, he said.

The board opted for Tharp over another finalist, Michael Finch.

Tharp and Finch were the other two finalists when Goedert was selected to fill the ORC board position in April 2012. The commission took another look at those two finalists at a recent study session.

Finch, a graduate of Wellsville High School and Ottawa University, said when first interviewing for the position in April 2012 that he and his wife returned to Ottawa about three years ago after living in Atlanta from 2002 through 2008. They have two young children. Commissioners said they were impressed with Finch’s health and wellness credentials and his skills.

“I think [Finch] would have brought a lot to the position, too, but I think Tharp had more experience with the local recreational leagues, as well as his familiarity with the community, caused us to lean in his direction,” Linda Reed, city commissioner, said. “It was nice to have two good choices.”

Reed said she thought Tharp’s superintendent role with the city’s electrical utility would serve him well on the board because he understands the budgeting process and how to maintain facilities.

Tharp joins Tony De La Torre as the other city appointee to the ORC board. The board is made up of five members — two appointed by the city commission, two appointed by the Ottawa school board and one at-large position selected by the other board members. The school board’s appointees are Linda Spencer and Jeff Curry, and Dan Stepp is the at-large member.   

Tharp said he thought his background in coaching, his degree in recreation administration and his experiences in business would prove beneficial as he tackled his new role on the recreation commission.

“I’d like to focus on lifetime sports, rather than just competitive sports,” Tharp said. “Competition isn’t bad, but I think it’s important to look at the healthy aspects of sports and recreation, rather than just focusing on wins and losses.”