Nathan Torres, Goodyear’s Parks and Recreation director, received the 2021 Gabe Zimmerman Public Service Award in the Community Builder category.
Torres was recognized for his hard work in driving public engagement in the design of the city’s new recreation campus, as well as his efforts to keep Goodyear residents connected throughout the pandemic.
“It’s a tremendous honor, not only for myself but our entire team and our community, to be recognized in the legacy of Gabe Zimmerman, someone who was dedicated to serving his community,” Torres said.
The award is named in honor of Gabe Zimmerman, the community outreach director for former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Zimmerman was one of six people who were shot and killed during an outreach event in Tucson in 2011.
While Torres admits to enjoying all the duties that come with being the parks and recreation director, he said he looks at his position as more than just a job.
“Parks and recreation is not just a job; it’s my passion,” he said.
“We have a unique opportunity and responsibility to impact the community, to programs, facilities and services on a daily basis, and that is something our entire team is very passionate about.”
Torres’ contribution to the completion of the recreation campus is one of the parks and recreation team’s major accomplishments, as the 48,000-square-foot indoor recreation facility, state-of-the-art aquatics facility and 30-acre park is already generating buzz within the West Valley.
However, Torres said that despite the success of the rec center, it’s all about the small wins and the everyday impact his job allows to have on Goodyear’s community.
“We can impact a person by teaching your child to swim or allowing an opportunity for active adults to gather and play cards and games or providing beautiful parks for families to take a stroll or picnic,” Torres said.
“If we can impact just one person, then we can impact their families. If we can impact their families for a day, then we can impact their neighbors and neighborhood. If we can impact their neighborhood, then we can build community, and that really is our coalition. It’s something that I think we’re continuing to strive to achieve every single day.”
When Torres joined the city of Goodyear team in 2007, he was hired as the ballpark manager, and he was later promoted to his current role in 2012. As the Parks and Recreation director, Torres oversees Goodyear’s 17 parks, as well as its recreation programs, library services, public art and special events.
After serving the community for nearly 15 years, Torres has witnessed the growth and said it’s a city that continues to impress him.
“We have a very engaged and involved community, and that’s what makes the community so special,” Torres said. “I feel that parks are the cornerstone for vibrant communities, including Goodyear. Not only do they promote healthy and active lifestyles, but they also provide opportunities for families, friends in the community to gather. And so with all of the growth that’s happening, Goodyear is a special place because of the residents and our programs, services and facilities.”
Torres said his team deserves the award just as much as him, as he believes their passion for the city and its growth is just as strong as his.
“Our team is unbelievable — very service minded,” he said. “We are here to provide the very best opportunities, facilities and experiences for Goodyear residents. It’s not only an opportunity for us; it’s a privilege and a responsibility that we don’t take lightly. Our team is focused on providing the very best services for Goodyear residents.”
Moving forward, Torres and his team are focused on the construction of the Civic Square Park, which will be part of the new city hall complex scheduled for completion in summer 2022.
Additionally, Torres said the community’s feedback and recommendations over the next year will also play a major role in the team’s next projects.
“We’re starting to plan out the next facilities and programs and services,” Torres said. “Obviously, opening up the rec campus is a huge milestone and celebration for the community, but with that comes new programs and new opportunities. Over the next 18 months we will be engaging the community on where we’re headed next in terms of programs, facilities and services. And so that’s going to be an important year for us coming up as we set our priorities moving forward.”