January 2018 Spotlight Professional

Jim Rabenstein, City of Burlington (Parks Supervisor)

Describe the scope of your position in parks and recreation.   

I supervise employees and direct the administrative functions, development, construction, operation, maintenance, and repair of the city’s parks system and cemetery, including equipment, facilities, grounds, and trails.

How long have you been with your present agency? 

Since February of 2008, this time. 

Background experience and previous careers?

After Graduating from Western Washington University with a BA in Parks and Recreation in 1988, I began my career as a recreation aid for Skagit County Parks and Recreation. Not long after, I was promoted to recreation coordinator and remained there until February of 1998, at which time I accepted a job as the first ever recreation coordinator for the City of Burlington. Approximately a year later I moved over to the parks department as a utility parks maintenance worker. I gained valuable experience over the next several years. In September of 2003, I accepted a job again with Skagit County Parks and Recreation as the parks manager. Two years later, I found myself at the Skagit County Fairgrounds as the operations manager.  From there, in 2008, I went back to the City of Burlington again, as a utility parks maintenance worker, then as parks lead and now as the parks supervisor.  

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

Growing up here in the Skagit Valley, I did what most kids did. I worked in the fields picking strawberries, raspberries, cucumbers, etc.  When I turned 16, I spent two summers driving pea-viners (12 hours/day, 6 days/week -all summer long).  I learned it’s okay to get dirty and work hard to earn a paycheck. A strong work ethic has always been something I take pride in. While I didn’t always enjoy the work, I learned to appreciate the people working alongside me. I believe those qualities have stayed with me through every job I’ve held.

Why are you passionate about the parks and recreation field?

I was born and raised here so I’m passionate about the community of Burlington. The parks I work in are the parks I played in as a child growing up. I treat the parks like they’re my own backyard because in some ways they are. It’s my way of having a positive impact on the people of my community.

What has been your biggest professional challenge? 

I’ll keep this one short and sweet, inter-office politics.

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

Be patient. Be kind. Be persistent. Take good notes, learn as you grow, and set goals. Do whatever it takes to achieve those goals (as long as it’s legal, moral, and ethical.)

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