Thirty years from now, Mansfield residents will still be fishing in the pond at Clayton W. Chandler Park, or taking their dog for a stroll around the paved walkway. They might bring their children to the same playground they’d grown up on and share stories of the summer of 2017 when it opened with all these new features, and how different Mansfield was back then. Their memories may be fuzzy, but every bit of that story, from Mansfield’s growth to the renovations of the park itself, were impacted by the man whose name is on the sign; City Manager Clayton Chandler.
Thirty-three years ago, when Clayton Chandler first came to Mansfield, it was a sleepy little community with 8,000 residents and one stoplight. Cheerful and friendly, it was badly in need of direction and a strong leader to take the reins.
Under Chandler’s direction, that tiny farm town now houses nearly 70,000 residents. And yet, as most will proudly boast, it’s kept the small-town closeness and friendly disposition that lured him here in the first place. Ranked by national organizations repeatedly as one of the country’s best places to live, Mansfield’s rapid expansion has come with far fewer growing pains than might be expected, often credited to Chandler’s leadership.
But it almost didn’t happen. “I turned the job down,” he said. “Twice, actually. But there was something that just kept drawing me back. I saw so much potential in this little town, the opportunity to be a part of something great. That part hasn’t changed; it’s what encourages me still to this day…knowing we’ve built something amazing and that there’s still so much work to do.”
The community will celebrate another one of those amazing projects this Saturday, and celebrate the man who helped make it happen. The grand opening of the newly redesigned Chandler Park will give Mansfield a chance to say thank you not only for the park but for all the hard work the City Manager has done to build this community.
And from day one, there’s been a lot of work to do, and he’s been happy to do it. His work ethic and dogged determination kept Mansfield on track and focused on the vision of what the city could be and what it would mean for residents in years to come. Chandler’s calm demeanor amidst the explosive growth has been a guiding force for city staff, whether that meant convincing a badly-needed hospital to build in an empty field in the middle of nowhere, or bracing the public debates over hard decisions.
So much progress under his belt, and yet Chandler only sees even bigger and better things on the horizon for Mansfield.
“I hope the next 30 years are even better than the last 30. That’s all I could ever hope for. As long as we’ve got a continuous flow of dedicated volunteers and employees who are excited to be here, we’ll continue to be the best place to work, live and play.”
Located off Walnut Creek near Debbie Lane, the park was built in 1979 as North Park. The Mansfield Park Facilities Development Corporation remodeled the park in 2004 and jumped at the chance to rename it in honor of the tireless leader who had served the city for 20 years. In the 13 years since that renovation, Mansfield has nearly doubled in size and this redesign addresses the needs of the growing community.
Many things about the community have changed, but Chandler’s dedication has not. His passion is still an unwavering source of inspiration for his staff and for the elected officials who serve the city.
“The milestones we as a community have reached over the last 30 years have benefited from Mr. Chandlers hard work, expertise, knowledge and vision,” said Mayor David Cook. “From the strong financial foundation to the quality growth we have experienced, Clayton Chandler has dedicated himself to building this community to be the best it can be for our residents.”
“It a rare pleasure to work with one of the greats in any industry,” said longtime City Council member Darryl Haynes. “The citizens of Mansfield should know by now we have one of the best city managers in the nation. I personally know how much he loves our city. And every employee knows he wants them to be the best they can be. He attracts good talent and makes them greater.”
The hard work has not gone unnoticed. Mansfield is recognized on many levels as one of the best in the state and the nation. It is now one of the region’s most desirable destinations, hence the continued fast-paced population growth. The surge in population raises demand for new services, and the city staff, following the example set by Mr. Chandler over the years, was thrilled to find ways to accommodate.
“I’m so proud of the organization that we have built, and I truly mean we,” said Chandler. “I’ve been a part of it all but by no means am I solely responsible for any of these accomplishments. By which, of course, I don’t mean awards—though there are many—but rather the level and quality of service we are able to provide the residents. Most specifically, we have established that this community is one of the best in the country to not only live but to raise a family. We hear that time and again and that’s something that means a lot to me. We laid the groundwork for all these great things to come and it’s an amazing thing to have been a part of.”
And now, Chandler and his team are a part of the next amazing thing; a massive, $3.5 million overhaul of the park that bears his name. The new amenities at Chandler are reflective of the community it now will serve.
“This will be one of the most diversely, actively programmed parks in the city,” said Park Planner Chris Ray. “This park truly has something for everyone.”
The decision to accommodate the city’s growth and future needs by expanding and improving upon the existing park, which had a good location and solid foundation, is a perfect metaphor for the leadership of Mr. Chandler and a move not lost on his staff.
“It’s particularly fitting that the transform of this park over the years mirrors the transformation of the community that Mr. Chandler has dedicated himself to over the last 33 years,” said Deputy City Manager Shelly Lanners. “This park improves the quality of life of our residents and that’s something he has worked for all these years.”
He is often quick to dismiss any praise of his tenure, saying his work was not revolutionary or drastic; rather he built upon the strength of a city ready for change and created a new foundation that future generations can use to take Mansfield to even bigger and better heights.
“Having a park named after me isn’t just a great honor, it’s humbling,” said Chandler. “This new expansion, especially, is a great representation of what this city is all about. There’s something for everyone, and that’s what we always strive for; meeting the needs of all our residents and making sure everyone feels important.”
What once was an empty field is now a seven acre wonderland of a park that the entire community can enjoy. What once was an empty downtown surrounded by a few farms and one stoplight is now a bustling city full of thriving businesses and growing families. Both of these transformations bear the mark of Clayton W. Chandler, and both will be appreciated for many generations to come.
The Clayton W. Chandler Park Phase II Grand Opening celebration is 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 19. The park is closed to the public until then, as work is ongoing and it is still an active construction zone. Everyone is welcome to attend the ceremony and explore all the new amenities; kids can wear swimsuits for the first official splash in the new splash pad.