Longtime Recreation Centers of Sun City West General Manager Mike Whiting has announced he will retire from the Association in February 2019.
Whiting has led the Association since February 2004, taking the helm of the Rec Centers during a tumultuous period, bringing stability and transparency that has lasted through his 15 years in the top job.
Whiting came to Sun City West after serving 31 years in Phoenix, including 17 years as the Central District Administrator, managing a 105-square-mile district and serving a population of 478,490 in Phoenix.
At the time he joined Sun City West, the Association had gone through several general managers in the previous few years, and the employees voted in a union as distrust grew between themselves, Governing Board directors and community members. Whiting’s first order of business was to open communication and initiate information-sharing meetings between the staff and Board. The community discord settled down, and within a few months the employees voted to dissolve the union.
That was just the beginning of Whiting’s calm demeanor and inclusive communication style bringing harmony to the Association. The cooperation that ensued allowed the Association to accomplish a great deal of significant undertakings during Whiting’s tenure. He learned a great deal about water rights as the Association was about to see the rights expire on the expansion area golf courses. After careful study, he arranged for the Association to purchase $2.2 million worth of water rights in 2008 that will water those courses in perpetuity.
Whiting saw the Association through the 2008 Phoenix housing market crash. Even as home sales took a steep decline, cutting Asset Preservation Fee income by half, the Association weathered the storm by freezing salaries and limiting construction projects, resulting in little impact on services to residents.
Ongoing maintenance and improvements to the Association picked up as the economy improved. During Whiting’s tenure, the Auto Restoration Club created a standalone club building; a designated pickleball center was established at Palm Ridge, the R.H. Johnson Library was renovated and expanded with the addition of the Data Resource Center; and a designated tennis center is being upgraded at R.H. Johnson.
Additionally, about $1.75 million in improvements were made at the R.H. Johnson complex, including new landscaping, trees, paint, signage, lighting and more. That doesn’t include the $4.2 million overhaul of the R.H. Johnson Aquatics Complex, which has doubled usage at that facility.
In 2014, the Association won its first Arizona Parks and Recreation Association award for Best Senior Program in the state of Arizona, then went on to sweep the category for three out of the next four years, with the latest being earned this Wednesday for its Virtual Reality for Seniors Program.
Additionally, Sun City West earned a variety of community wide honors in recent years, including being ranked as 55places.com’s No. 2 in the U.S. and No. 1 in the state as “Best Value Active Adult Communities of 2016”; and No. 1 in the state and No. 3 in the U.S. as “Best 55+ Communities for 2016.”
Whiting declined to comment about his retirement and his work in Sun City West over the last 15 years, other than to say he was proud to be a part of the community’s progress and looked forward to wrapping up a few projects over the next six months and preparing the Association for his successor.
“I did my part over the last 15 years, and I’m proud of my work. But this community excels not just because of the Rec Centers, but because of all the individuals and organizations who make it successful,” Whiting said.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the staff at the Rec Centers. It has been an honor to serve alongside them. But I also want to thank the many volunteers who put in countless time and energy to help their neighbors, to assist the community’s invaluable nonprofits, and who participate in this community through their involvement in the Governing Board, the committees, the nonprofits and the many activities we have,” he added.
Along with continuing to manage the day to day activities as always, Whiting will spend the next six months wrapping up major projects such as the R.H. Johnson Tennis Complex renovation and the Space Utilization Study, and getting operations in order for his successor.
“Mike is a hands-on manager, so he will continue to stay busy in the day-to-day management. This place doesn’t slow down, even during the summer,” said General Services Officer Katy O’Grady. “We would love to see him stay – he’s been a calming force and a progressive manager for us – but we’re happy to see him look forward to his second retirement. No doubt he will remain busy; that’s just the kind of guy he is.”
Aside from working for Phoenix and Sun City West, Whiting has served on several nonprofit boards including the Japanese Friendship Garden, Phoenix Zoo, and the Sundome Performing Arts Association.
The Governing Board is establishing a Search Committee to recruit a new General Manager. Details on that process will be announced as they are determined.