Mary Pezdek, hired in 1995 as the Brookfield Recreation Department’s first-ever program coordinator, has announced she’ll retire from that post March 15, leaving management a month to replace the department’s lone full-time employee.

Pezdek said she’s been contemplating retirement for a few years, but that now was the right time.

“I really feel this is the time for me to move on, time for new blood to come in, shake things up and move in a new direction,” Pezdek said last week.

Village Manager Keith Sbiral said that he’ll be talking with the village board about the direction in which they’d like to see the department move.

“I think Mary’s done an excellent job,” Sbiral said. “It’d be hard to find a more dedicated employee.”

During the past decade, the village has made large investments in physical facilities, creating new fields, a splash pad and other improvements at Ehlert Park and completing an overhaul of Kiwanis Park that included the construction of a band shell.

But the village has not made similar investments in the operation of the Recreation Department during that time. Longtime parks employee Arlene Rovner has worked the entire time alongside Pezdek as the department’s event coordinator in a part-time capacity. 

While there have been other part-timers who have come and gone, there have been long stretches, like now, where Pezdek and Rovner have been the only employees of the department.

“The [village] board needs to look at the programs we now offer and when we offer them,” said Sbiral. “The majority have indicated they want to bolster our offerings to the extent we can.”

A half-time position in the department has remained unfilled for the past four years, but that’s likely to change as a new leader comes aboard, said Sbiral. The role Pezdek has played since 2003, when Cathy Colgrass Edwards was forced out as recreation director, is also likely to evolve.

Even after assuming what was essentially the lead role in the Recreation Department, Pezdek never assumed the title of director, though she had expressed a willingness to do so if top officials wanted to move in that direction.

“Over time [the current set up] may have to change,’ Sbiral said. “It’s very difficult to run a department of one or one and a half people. The notion that we’d need more staff is not foreign.”

As for hiring someone who would take on the title of director, that’s not out of the question, either.

“I could easily see that becoming more of a director-level position than in the past,’ Sbiral said.

Village President Kit Ketchmark also appears to support recalibrating the department in that vein.

“It’s a department that we haven’t given as much focus as we should have,’ Ketchmark said. “It’s an opportunity to update things, update the programming.”

“I’d see that [new hire] being in name, experience and ability to serve as director.”

Before working as an employee of the village, Pezdek was a member of the Brookfield Playgrounds and Recreation Commission from 1990 to 1995. When then-Village manager Jim Mann sought to reorganize the Recreation Department in 1995, he hired Edwards as director and Pezdek as the department’s first program coordinator, joining Rovner, who was already on board.

During her time as an employee of the department, Brookfield has increased cooperative programming with neighboring communities and has joined the special recreation association, SEASPAR.

“I think we did good things for people here,” Pezdek said.