February 2022 Spotlight Professional

Viki Downey – Aquatic Supervisor at Manson Parks

Describe the scope of your position in parks and recreation.

I am a groundskeeper at the historic Mt. View Cemetery, one of the oldest municipal cemeteries in the state with burials dating back to 1850. In addition to taking care of the grounds of the almost 80-acre facility, our team also prepares for burials and internment services. I fill-in as a cemetery office clerk when needed; conduct historical research; organize and lead historical tours at the cemetery; prepare and install historical and educational signage and materials; organize and assist with educational programs held at the cemetery

How long have you been with your present agency?

27 years

Background experience and previous careers?

Joanna graduated from Oregon State University. She previously worked as a groundskeeper with the Textronic Corporation in Wilsonville, Oregon, and with Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation, Beaverton, Oregon.


What were some of your first jobs, and what did you learn from them?

One of my early jobs was as a plant nursery employee and groundskeeper. I learned customer service skills, how to take care of turf and plant materials, and how to work independently.

How have you participated in WRPA?

I have not participated directly in WRPA, but I believe your mission and vision are crucial for growth in the park and recreation field. 

Why are you passionate about the parks and recreation field?

I love being outdoors and being involved with nature, recreational programs, and kids. The parks and recreation industry has something to offer for everyone. The parks and the programs we provide are vital to the well-being of our communities.

What has been your biggest professional challenge? 

Prior to being transferred to the cemetery seven years ago, I was the Aviary Caretaker. I had a big shift to make from working independently caring for exotic birds to being part of a team preparing for and caring for the final resting place for over 40,000 people. I learned to operate an excavator as well as other equipment when I was in my late 50's. In addition, I had no prior knowledge about cemeteries and how they are facilitated. Our team at the cemetery has to be sensitive to grieving families' needs and provide a positive experience for their final farewell. 

What’s the best advice you can give to someone starting out in the field of parks and recreation?

Keep your eyes wide open, don't be afraid to ask questions, don't be afraid to make mistakes, embrace challenges, express your ideas, and work hard. Network with other park and recreation employees and keep advancing your education through training and seminars.