June 2020 Spotlight Professional

Josh Oakes, City of Spokane Parks and Recreation DepartmentJosh Oakes – Recreation Supervisor of City of Spokane Parks and Recreation Department

Describe the scope of your position in parks and recreation.   

I oversee the adult volleyball program and the aquatics program which includes the operations of the outdoor aquatic centers and splash pads.

How long have you been with your present agency? 

I have been an employee with the City of Spokane for roughly two and a half years.

Background experience and previous careers?

I graduated from the University of Idaho where I majored in Recreation and received a minor in Outdoor Leadership. While in college, I worked for the Moscow Parks and Recreation Department as an After School Program Leader, an Aquatic Aide, and a Recreation Assistant at the City’s recreation center. I completed my summer internship with the City of Post Falls Parks and Recreation, and after completing college, I was fortunate to land a full-time job with the Department. Before I was lucky enough to join the team with Spokane Parks and Recreation, I worked with the City of Post Falls Parks and Recreation Department for 11 years.

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

Some of my first jobs were as an Aquatic Aide at the Hamilton Lowe Aquatic Center the Moscow Parks and Recreation Department, a Recreation Assistant at Hamilton Indoor Recreation also with Moscow Parks and Recreation, and I also spent a summer after I graduated college as a Seasonal Parks Maintenance Worker with the City of Post Falls. These positions helped teach me things like teamwork, grit, determination, and leadership.

Why are you passionate about the parks and recreation field?

I am passionate about parks and recreation because growing up, I was a park and rec kid. I would play at the community playground down the street from my house, I would spend hours at the local BMX track perfecting my timing on the course, and I learned how to swim at the local pool. Looking back, I am so grateful for the resources that I had available to me. These experiences played a huge role in my development and are a part of who I am today. I want to share these kinds of lifelong memories with my children and my community.

What has been your biggest professional challenge? 

I think that my biggest professional challenge over the years has been leading groups of staff. Whether it’s a group of sports officials, camp counselors, or lifeguards, I always want to make sure that I give it my all and that I am the kind leader that they deserve. I tell my staff that I am there to serve them and that they can rely on me. Building these kinds of working relationships takes a lot of time and energy. This may be the most challenging part of the job for me, but I feel like the relationships that I build with my employees is also one of the most rewarding parts of my job. 

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

The advice that I would give to someone who is thinking about starting out in the field of parks and recreation is to get as much experience as you can and network with your local parks and recreation professionals. You need to have relatable work experience to be able to land your first full-time gig in the parks and recreation world. If it means that you have to clean toilets and cut grass for a summer, then so be it. You will look back on those times when you progress in the profession and be able to pull from some of your experiences of being on the frontlines. 

Also, there is surprisingly a lot of writing that you have to do as a parks and recreation professional. I would not claim to be a great writer, by any means. I personally know that is an area where I can improve on. I would recommend to anyone that is interested in the parks and recreation profession to take some extra creative writing courses. 

How is the City of Spokane Parks and Recreation Department dealing with the fallout from the coronavirus? (Comment from March 19, 2020)

My agency is dealing with the fallout from the coronavirus much like other departments around the state. We are continuing to keep in frequent communication with our work teams, as well as our customers. We are working on creative solutions to a very complicated problem where the goalposts seem to be moving daily. We have been creating rolling timelines to help us assist with activities when we are allowed to begin offering them, and we are coming up with long lists of options and scenarios in preparation for whatever may come our way.