For the first time in more than two decades the village of Brookfield is seeking to hire a full-time recreation director, signaling an intention to beef up resources and programs for a department that has been without a department head-level leader since the late Cathy Colgrass Edwards was forced out in 2003.

The village of Brookfield posted the job late last week, asking candidates to submit applications by May 11. According to the job description posted on the village’s website, the recreation director will “serve as part of the senior management of the village and report directly to the village manager.”

“The village board has felt for a long time that a director is needed,” said Village President Kit Ketchmark.

Brookfield’s Department of Parks and Recreation has been a two-woman show, squeezed into 1.5 full-time positions, for a number of years. Mary Pezdek, who retired in March had served as program coordinator since 2003. Arlene Rovner, who is a part-time staffer, handles most of the special event planning for the department.

However, neither had director-level status, which put the department at a disadvantage when it came to strategic planning and budgeting. 

While the village has spent substantial sums of money for improvements to Ehlert and Kiwanis parks in the past decade or so, decisions on improvements flowed from the village manager’s office on down. Recreation staff and the Playgrounds and Recreation Commission played a small role.

In 2013, the latter issue boiled over publicly, with the then-chairman airing complaints about the marginalization of the commission’s role at a village board meeting.

The chain of command for recreation department staff also pinballed through the years. There were times when they reported to the village manager, and another time when they reported to the public works director.

“How do you budget if you don’t have a director?” Ketchmark said. “It affects so many elements going down the road. A new director will bring new ideas, energy and a new focus on recreation in Brookfield.”

Just before he resigned as village manager and in light of Pezdek’s retirement, Keith Sbiral directed Rovner to report to the head of the Community and Economic Development Department.

After Sbiral’s departure, the decision was made to have Rovner report to interim management consultant Jay Dalicandro, who will be on board until a new village manager is hired.

“In light of the changes Keith put forward, Jay is helping bring definition to the role in the short term,” Ketchmark said.

Brookfield Trustee Nicole Gilhooley, who is the village board’s liaison to the Brookfield Playgrounds and Recreation Commission, echoed Ketchmark’s belief that the recreation department needs an advocate at the senior management level.

The department is isolated in its village hall basement location and needs heightened visibility.

“That department needs more exposure to the rest of the staff and needs an advocate at the director level,” Gilhooley said.

The village is looking for someone who has a college degree or major coursework in recreation or recreation administration “with considerable supervisory experience in a public recreation program.”

The starting salary for the new director is estimated at between $60,000 and $70,000, depending on qualifications.

In terms of future staffing in the recreation department, Ketchmark said there’s no plan to hire additional staff at this time. Once a new director and village manager are in place, there might be additional conversation regarding staffing and departmental structure.

“I would leave that to the new manager to see how staffing would go in that department,” Ketchmark said.

The last time the village hired someone as recreation director was in 1996, when Colgrass Edwards was elevated to the post a year after being hired as a staff member. She was forced out as director in April 2003, and the village has gone without a recreation director ever since.

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