One on One with…new Naples Community Activities Director Peter Ceprano

Naples Community Activities Director Peter Ceprano uses some sports equipment while standing in the playground outside the Naples Town Hall, where he started working on May 29. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Peter Ceprano leapt at the chance to make a change, accepting a newly-created job in a town that prior to his interview he had only driven through.

He says the change — new job, new department — has not only been beneficial to his life but also it has been a good move for the Town of Naples. It’s something many in the communinity have welcomed whole-heartedly.

As the new Community Activities Director in Naples, Ceprano recognizes the importance of playing sports and staying active. He is no couch potato and prefers board games and conversations at the dinner table to TV.

Playing sports at Edward Little High School helped with his transition from urban Rhode Island to rural Maine. He learned to be a smart team player once he accepted he might not be the biggest, the strongest, or the fastest.

Right now, he has been thrust into the limelight as the new director and the only employee in the Community Activities Department. At the same time, Ceprano appreciates being in the background, which is one of his goals when he umpires.

B-News: Do you feel like you hit the floor running when you started your new job in Naples this spring? Please explain.

Ceprano: I feel like I have, although there have been challenges along the way. Coming out of the interview process, I felt confident that I was the ideal candidate for the position the town was creating. The opportunity was described as needing someone who could coordinate and organize all of the towns activities that were currently in place and bring different organizations throughout the town together in the hopes of combining efforts, sharing resources, and playing off each other’s strengths. Before I arrived, Naples already had quite a few things going on. It just needed someone to “glue” all the pieces together.  I’ve already met with so many people and organizations since coming on board. Having been in this position for a few months now, I have a better understanding of what direction we’re going to take Community Activities and Recreation here in Naples.  I have some great ideas which I hope will be received well by the community.

B-News: It is said that most people resist change. The department you were hired to manage got a complete makeover, including the name and the mission. How have people in the community reacted to these changes? Ceprano: The reception I received when walking through the doors of Naples Town Office for the first time was unbelievable. The people who work here are amazing. I was eager for the opportunity to work for John, and he has gone above and beyond to support me with anything I need to ensure this change is successful and worthwhile to the Town. All of the members of the community who I’ve had the opportunity to talk with have also been extremely positive and welcoming. For a few weeks, I felt like the most popular person in town! While this change for the town was in motion for some time, expanding the offering of services which the town is demanding will almost always be met with certain positivity. This change wasn’t only good just for the town. I love coming to work every day. I love serving this community. I was nervous to make the change for my own personal career path, but I quickly learned that this experience and opportunity was exactly what I needed at this point in my life. I’ve learned change can be physically painful. It is uncomfortable because it delves into the unknown. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I am blown away at how ready and generous people in Naples have been with their time and resources.  Members of the community have been stepping up and offering anything they can to help this department. I couldn’t imagine a better start anywhere else.

B-News: Which change has been the easiest to facilitate?

Ceprano: We haven’t really made any changes yet. While interviewing, one of the items we discussed was ideas I had for Naples. I honestly didn’t have an answer for them, but only because I wasn’t sure what Naples was lacking.  I could have explained “If I am selected as your Director, I will do X, Y and Z,” but what if X, Y, and Z aren’t anything beneficial to Naples? I wanted to take some time, build an understanding of my surroundings, and then formulate a strategic plan to build off of my observations. Once I’m able to strip everything down and determine which programs are successful, we can build from there. The unfortunate thing is that a review of that scope takes time. I feel like I’m literally solving a puzzle where every piece is the same color; I just need to figure out where the ends meet and then we’ll work together as a community to paint a new picture on the canvas using the existing pieces.

B-News: Which changes — items that may have been discussed during the interview process — do you anticipate will take the most time to happen?

Ceprano: The biggest change will be building the department to a point where it can sustain itself. Right now, the majority of the programs and services offered by the Town’s Community Activities Department are subsidized by taxpayer dollars. Because of that, registration costs do not align with the actual expenses involved with running the program they are associated with. The goal is to bring those programs to a point where they can sustain themselves through registrations and fundraising, at which point I can reallocate the existing dollars in my budget towards new programs and services for the community. My long-term goal (and short answer) is to expand the services we offer the community without needing to increase the departments operating budget at the expense of taxpayers.

B-News: How have the children involved in the summer camps and the sports programs responded to you?

Peter Ceprano

Ceprano: They have been great.  They’re always trying to get my attention when I’m around the programs they are taking part in. Honestly, I wish I had more time to spend with them so I could get to know each of them a bit better.  I have a family of my own, and I like to think that I have a good connection with young learners. I was once the kid who wanted to play and explore. I was often the one who was testing boundaries and seeing just how far my curiosities could take me. Kids like having freedom and encouragement to be themselves. When you take the time to admire and praise their efforts, good or bad, it helps build their character and reinforces a strong sense of self. I make a point to try and remember everyone’s name at our current summer camp. We have about 40 kids on a daily basis, and while the roster changes from week to week, I’ve got about half of them down so far. We still have three weeks left, so there’s still hope I’ll learn the rest!

B-News: Prior to this job, you worked for the City of Auburn. What roles or tasks have built a foundation for what you are doing now in Naples?

Ceprano: Auburn was a different community from Naples in that we had 22,000 people year-round depending on our services. I was fortunate to work with all levels of the community (children, adolescents, adults and the senior population). Each level of the community required different types of services, so I’ve offered everything from sports programs to recognition banquets to city celebrations and events. I’ve managed sports facilities and built beneficial partnerships for my previous employer which will help propel their efforts forward into the future. I am a team player. I am not the type of person who needs to have the best idea at the table to feel included. I love to work behind the scenes and help create the magic people get to experience. My career as an umpire has helped me realize that I thrive when I’m succeeding in the background. If I can get on and off the field without anyone remembering me, I know I’ve accomplished everything that was expected of me.

B-News: Please share a little bit about yourself — Did you grow up and go to school in Maine? Did you play sports? Are you married with children? Any pets? What activities do you do in your spare time?

Ceprano: Well, I was actually born in Rhode Island. My parents moved to Maine when I was 12, and they currently live in Wales. Growing up I played the usual kid sports (baseball, basketball and football). When we moved to Maine, it was a very difficult transition for me. We moved from the inner city of Providence to Minot. I went from being a few blocks away from all my friends in my old neighborhood, to now needing rides across town just to hang out. Football was the only constant in my life during that time. I was athletic to a certain degree, but I was never the biggest, fastest, or strongest. To compensate for my lack of size, I always had to make sure I was smarter than the person I was playing across from. I often credit my desire to join the recreation field to my sports involvement as a child. I was very fortunate to have some great coaches and mentors growing up, and I wanted to pass that onto generations to come.

I live with my girlfriend of four years, Danielle. I have learned so much about myself from her. She is my biggest fan, and is always challenging me to chase after my dreams. I would not be where I am today without her. Her encouragement and support afforded me the opportunity to make this transition possible. I would never have taken the risk of switching career paths to the recreation field while raising our family without her. She made this all possible. We have four kids, three of which you may see here from time to time enjoying our Kidventure Summer Camp. I am also a professional umpire and a high school football coach at my alma mater, Edward Little High School. If there is any free time after all of that, you will usually see me sitting down to play board games. We shy away from TV as much as possible in my house; I’d rather sit down and laugh around a table with family and friends.

B-News: Prior to being hired in this position, have you visited or spent time in Naples? If so, can you describe what you thought and what might have made a lasting impression on you?

Ceprano: The only experiences I’ve had with Naples were driving through the Causeway. I’ve driven through in the winter when it looks like a ghost town, and I’ve driven through in the summer where it takes 20 minutes just to go from one end to the other. I was always under the impression that the Causeway was where Naples began and ended, but I’ve now learned there is so much more here. When I was interviewing for this position in early spring, I was required to drive to the Town office on a few occasions. Each time I drove here, more and more businesses appeared to be getting ready for the summer. Shades started to come up, tables started to pop up on the sidewalk. Lights were on, fresh paint was going up. Each time I drove up, it looked more and more alive. It was literally like watching a flower come into bloom. My last drive through town before accepting the position was when I knew how much I really wanted to be part of this community. I felt I could complement the great things that were already happening here.

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