TAMPA — The Tampa Police Athletic League has new leadership after a nearly 10-year span that saw numerous changes and growth in the program for children and youths ages 5 to 15.
Jessica Perez, 47, a coach and former teacher who has worked for almost 11 years with the city of Tampa Parks and Recreation Department, will assume the role of executive director.
Phil Ray, 62, a former Tampa Police Department sergeant who has held the position for 10 years, is retiring.
Perez began work Monday and will work with Ray for about four to six weeks for the transition.
Ray said Perez, a Tampa native who went to Tampa Catholic High School, “outshined” the other candidates.
Perez said she wanted the job because she knew that she would “be going to a strong, fiscally stable organization.”
The league is an independent nonprofit organization that operates through grants, donations, fundraisers and rental fees of its concession stands and fields. It is governed by a board of directors.
“This will rejuvenate my work with children and youth,” said Perez, who also helps with coaching softball.
She said having been a teacher and one of the founders of a charter school she feels she brings a new perspective to the program, which now provides homework assistance.
“I want to add more educational aspects — education not just for youth but that of parents,” Perez said. “I also want to work with parks and rec and others for collaborative efforts to bring nature, art here.”
The PAL program, 1924 W. Diana St., served almost 1,000 students last year, Ray said. They participated in after-school programs, summer camp and athletics, she added.
Participants pay a sliding fee with about 99 percent of the students in the after-school program paying the reduced rate.
In 2013, a new $5 million building with a gymnasium and game rooms opened, but it needed some additional elements, Ray said.
Recently the Tampa Bay Buccaneers donated $46,000, which was used for acoustic improvements in the gymnasium.
“It had a seven-second echo,” he said. “We had a beautiful sound system we couldn’t use.”
The Tampa Police Memorial Fund paid for flagpoles that have been installed and will be landscaped. It will be dedicated soon, Ray said.
“No matter where you turn, there are donations,” Ray said. “This whole complex was built by the community.”