November 2019 Spotlight Professional

Rick Scott – Recreation Manager City of Des Moines

Describe the scope of your position in parks and recreation.   

As a recreation manager within the City of Des Moines, I am in charge of the Recreation Division of our Parks, Recreation and Senior Services Department. I oversee the day-to-day operations of our Field House facility, youth and adult sports leagues, enrichment programs, classes and activities, sponsorships, sports rentals, special events, and camps.

How long have you been with your present agency? 

Almost 5 years. I was hired as a Recreation Coordinator for the City of Des Moines in February of 2015 and was promoted to Recreation Manager in November of 2017. 


Background experience and previous careers?

I hold a BS Exercise Science, an MSS in Sorts Management and am currently a CPRP (Certified Park and Recreation Professional). While in college, I worked in intramural sports and an after school program during the week and for the Boys and Girls Club on weekends. I spent 3 years working for REI while obtaining my master’s degree. I took a 1-year mentorship working under the Director of Campus Recreation at Eastern Washington University before spending 5 years as their Coordinator of Club Sports. 

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

For my first official paying job, I cleaned bathrooms and was nighttime security for an RV campground and golf course. I worked from 10:00 PM – 6:00 AM. At 16 years old, it was kind of a brutal summer shift. I learned a lot about responsibility, working independently, and the number of nasty things that I had to clean during that summer. I really don’t get grossed out by much anymore.

The summer before I left for college, my uncle got me a job as a laborer with his construction company. It paid $22 per hour, I had no experience, didn’t have a clue what I was doing, and I was by far the youngest person on the job site, making it a little intimidating. After 2 weeks on the job site, the foreman pulled me aside and let me know that if I didn’t pull my weight, he would have to let me go. At that point, I remembered a quote from an old basketball coach where he said: “I’d rather earn a dollar than be given two”. I realized that I had been handed this position, but I was not earning my pay. From that point on, if I saw someone carrying 2 boards, I carried 4: if someone was walking at a medium pace, I blew by them: I showed up early and volunteered to stay late and come in on weekends. That quote did not even register with me when I first heard it, but it kicked in during that moment and having that train of thought has helped me excel in all of the positions that I have held since.

Why are you passionate about the parks and recreation field?

I love the sense of community and togetherness that we as parks and recreation professionals have the ability to provide our constituents. The feeling you get when you see a child smile while at an activity, watching parents forge friendships during events, volunteer commitments made for the betterment of the community, the diversity of our participants and the multitude of people from all around that attend our special events is amazing.

What has been your biggest professional challenge? 

As a parks and recreation professional, funding for programs, facilities, and park improvements can be limited. It can be very frustrating at times, especially when we know that tax-paying citizens rely on us to provide them with high-quality programs, facilities, parks, and special events. However, as you learn how to combine resources with community partners, local organizations, grant opportunities, and donations to help achieve the needs of the community, it does get better. It definitely does not make it any easier, but it’s kind of like a puzzle, it will take time, it can be frustrating and it will be rewarding at the end.

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

Work hard, take advantage of any continuing education opportunities provided, take the time to build relationships with fellow parks and recreation professionals, you are going to make mistakes (learn from them) and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone to try new things. 

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