By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Interim Director Lonon picks up Effingham Rec where Morgan left off
Jeffery Lonon
Jeffery Lonon

Special to the Herald

SPRINGFIELD – Even though his new position requires him to focus almost exclusively on the present and the future, Jeffery Lonon’s mind drifted briefly into the past.

Lonon’s change of mental direction was prompted by his being named the interim Director of Effingham County Recreation and Sports Management. The job was formerly held by his longtime mentor, Clarence Morgan.

“The first thing I thought about was Clarence, of course,” Lonon said. “He always told me and Ryan (Sanders) that he wanted one of us – or both of us in some capacity – to run the department when he left.”

Morgan died in 2022 after spending nearly 50 years with the department. He was succeeded by Sanders, who recently resigned to pursue another career.

“Clarence is probably smiling because, first, Ryan had the opportunity and now I have the opportunity,” Lonon said. “The two people he wanted to follow him, did.”

Lonon became acquainted with Morgan while a seventh grader at Effingham County Middle School. Morgan was a teacher at the time.

Their relationship blossomed a few years later at Effingham County High School where Morgan served as the head baseball coach and athletic director.

“Clarence did things for all the sports,” said Lonon, whose athletic career was cut short by a knee injury during his junior campaign with the Rebels football team. “He made sure everything ran well and I learned about the passion that he had for athletics in Effingham County as a whole. He didn’t separate one side from the other.

“Everybody got a fair shot,” Lonon added.

Before settling into his career with the recreation department, Lonon lived in Savannah and worked for Hertz Rental Car, Great Dane Trailers and Gulfstream. He was also employed part-time as a Delta Air Lines skycap at Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport.

Lonon called Morgan about a job opening shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, caused a reduction in his airport income. He and his wife, tired of paying rent in Savannah, had just returned to Effingham County after purchasing some land.

“Clarence said, ‘You are a lucky guy because the interviews are going to close out tomorrow,’” Lonon remembered.

Two days later, Lonon was named “athletic coordinator,” a post that required tremendous versatility and a willingness to work 16 hours or more some days.

“Back then, we didn’t have a Parks and Landscaping crew,” he said. “(Field preparation) was done through rec. We had two maintenance guys and a maintenance supervisor, but if one of them was out sick or on vacation we would pick up and go outside and cut grass, chop fields, drag fields.

“You would have to do some of everything – the concession stands, running tournaments. There were only two of us – maybe three at the most. That was just part of rec life back then.”

The breadth of experience Lonon gained put him in position to take the reins of leadership of a growing department that will serve about 1,100 youths in football, cheerleading, volleyball, and soccer this fall.

“And we are going to get more kids because of all the people moving into the county,” Lonon said.

Lonon looks forward to helping implement the Recreation Master Plan that was recently approved by the Effingham County Board of Commissioners. The 15-year guideline calls for numerous recreational enhancements and additions throughout the county for residents of all ages and abilities.

“In the years that I have been (in recreation), Effingham County has definitely turned the full page on facilities because of the vision of (County Manager) Tim Callanan, the Recreation Board and the Effingham County Board of Commissioners,” Lonon said. “Without their vision, none of this stuff would be possible.”