Topics & Trends in Parks & Rec: Human Capital Management

Posted on May 10, 2019

This blog is by Sydney Lawrence and Catesby Denison, members of the UNC MPA Research Team for Parks & Recreation. The Research Team shared some of their findings as they worked toward a final report issued in late Spring 2019.

Sydney Lawrence
Sydney Lawrence

In our final blog post for the #ELGLKnope Award competition, our research team focused on Parks & Recreation in two western municipalities.

First, we looked at the City-County of Broomfield, Colorado. Broomfield is unique in that is the only city-county jurisdiction we interviewed.

Next, we interviewed the City of Pearland, Texas.

Catesby Denison
Catesby Denison

These final interviews provided excellent information for our research team to conclude our investigation into the human capital management topics and trends in parks and recreation.

Broomfield, CO

Our first interview was with Clay Shuck, Director of Recreation Services for Broomfield, Colorado. Mr. Shuck believes there is a “true benefit” to working for a city-county jurisdiction. Having worked in city jurisdictions, county jurisdictions, and special districts, he has seen all sides of parks and recreation, and enjoys the city-county jurisdiction most. Mr. Shuck explained that this structure allows for the most efficient communication and collaboration with necessary stakeholders, as you can “bring all of those resources together in one room.”

He noted that, “…it really helps to cut down a lot of the barriers and get things moving forward at a faster pace, because we’re not trying to work through the bureaucracy of the different agencies.”

Mr. Shuck manages 96 full-time employees and nearly 550 part-time seasonal staff in Broomfield. As we’ve seen in our other interviews, hiring and retaining seasonal staff is a human capital management challenge. Mr. Shuck explained that the Recreation Department has to stay competitive with private sector wages.

The minimum wage in Broomfield is $11.10/hour, so he is working to improve the recruitment of seasonal employees. However, there is no shortage of interest in full-time positions. The department recently received over 60 applications for a Youth and Team Specialist Position vacancy.

Once an employee is hired, Mr. Shuck takes great pride in their onboarding process. The department values a person “being a good fit” to the organization, so they have established a two-week onboarding process that allows new employees to “…get to know the landscape and the lay of the land and what they need to accomplish.”

Mr. Shuck hopes that this allows new hires to “make sure they’re talking to the right people” that are going to help them be successful in their position.

The Recreation Department provides a variety of services to the Broomfield community, including senior services, a recreation center, community parades, and an aquatic park.

Mr. Shuck explained that they provide transportation services for seniors to attend medial and social appointments. In 2018, their easy-ride senior transportation program logged nearly 22,000 trips. In addition to transportation, Broomfield Recreation participates in the Meals on Wheels program, delivering nearly 70,000 hot and nutritious meals to seniors in their community in 2018. Mr. Shuck is grateful for the numerous volunteers that help keep this service running.

A new recreation center is currently under construction in Broomfield. The 97,000 square foot building is nearly one-third larger than the previous center and will ultimately provide community members with a center to cook, recreate, and socialize.

Mr. Shuck anticipates hiring four or five additional staff members to work in the new recreation center. Broomfield also maintains the Bay Aquatic Park, an outdoor water park featuring water slides, pools, and other aquatic activities.

Aquatic parks lifeguards are offered continued education and certification programs in order to maintain training and expertise. Mr. Shuck explained that professional development has been a specific focus of theirs in the last couple of years.

The most popular event offered by the Recreation Department is known as “Broomfield Days.” It is a special event in September in which community members to celebrate Broomfield with a large parade.

The festival features a car show, food, games, crafts, community dances, and family-friendly activities. Residents of Broomfield take great pride in coming together and celebrating their community.

I very much enjoyed speaking with Mr. Shuck about human capital management within his department and learning about all of the great services Broomfield Recreation has to offer!

Pearland, TX

Our last interview was with Clay Pearson, City Manager of Pearland, Texas. Mr. Pearson had a lot of exciting things to talk about relating to parks and recreation in Pearland. The City has 89 Parks and Recreation Department staff. Pearland Parks and Recreation has 147 acres of land throughout the City. This includes 17 community and neighborhood parks.

Most recently, in March, the City opened the Delores Fenwick Nature Center which includes a freshwater aquarium with native fish, live animal exhibits, classrooms, outdoor pavilion, and an edible fruit trail.  

The hard work of the City’s employees has led them to being one of the elite communities in the United States that have earned accreditation from the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) and the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). Pearland is one of only eight parks and recreation agencies to have received this recognition in Texas.

The community has become a partner in assisting the City’s employees in maintaining the vast outdoor recreational amenities Pearland has to offer. They have done this by utilizing community volunteers like Boy Scout troops and local football teams to assist with parks maintenance.

Pearland community members are so passionate about their community parks that they have created a non-profit organization called Forever Parks Foundation of Pearland. The mission of the organization is the “partner with the City to establish premier parks, facilities and programs.”

Mr. Pearson spoke about how the diversity on the Parks and Recreation Department staff was pretty representative of the community at large. The City of Pearland has recognized the value of its Parks and Recreation staff members by recently conducting a salary study.

Mr. Pearson said that was an important step for the department to ensure that their employees were being compensated appropriately. He added that the department also celebrates employees through years of service recognition.

With a staff of 89 working throughout the City, the Pearland Parks and Recreation Department utilizes a special to help keep their staff engaged, informed, and recognized.  Pearland shares a monthly e-newsletter with their Parks and Recreation staff called Park Bench.

Each month, the newsletter welcomes new staff members and does a small write-up on of the employees. There is a section on wins and shout-outs where staff can submit accomplishments and achievements of their peers. Educational materials are included in their “Team Tips” section which in their April edition included information on the evaluation methods used in their Adaptive Recreation program.

Sydney Lawrence and Catesby Denison are members of the UNC MPA Research Team for Parks & Recreation. They are first-year MPA students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Government.

Clay Pearson is City Manager for the City of Pearland, Texas. Pearson has a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Kansas and a Bachelor’s degree from Gustavus Adolphus College. Pearson has served as the Manager for Pearland since 2014. Prior to this Prior to Pearland, he served the City of Novi, Michigan for 14 years including as the City Manager for eight years.

Clay Shuck is Director of Recreation Services in Broomfield, Colorado. He holds an MPA and a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management both from the University of Phoenix. Shuck has over 30 years of Parks and Recreation experience in a variety of recreation positions in Colorado Springs, where he spent 24 years and worked his way up to Aquatics Program Coordinator. Most recently, Shuck was the Deputy Manager of Recreation at the South Suburban Parks and Recreation District.

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