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The Last Word - May 2018

The Last Word with…
… Ken Sherbenou

By Deborah L. Vence


Ken Sherbenou grew up in Littleton, Colo., and thrived on programs and facilities that were offered by the South Suburban Parks and Recreation District.

"I did not know it at the time, but I was learning the critical importance of public recreation on building community and delivering quality of life. I then ran rec programs (kids' outdoor camp and Ultimate Frisbee) through college, where I studied political science and economics," said Sherbenou, who is the executive director of the Montrose Recreation District in Colorado, and is an avid mountain biker, skier, climber, Ultimate Frisbee player and runner. "Colorado is a sacred place, and I love it here."

Sherbenou eventually earned a master's in public administration. He said that "Effective public recreation services are tremendously dependent on understanding how to strategize politically. Complementary to politics is economics and truly understanding economic impact and the best way to provide the public good of recreation."

At the Montrose Recreation District, formed in 1956 as a special district to build and operate a summer swimming pool, the overall goal is to maximize the quality and quantity of service, "so that we build community and ensure a strong and essential contribution to the quality of life of Montrose," Sherbenou said. "I love working for a small organization. I get to do everything, from all [of] the big picture planning and strategizing, down to the daily operation. I plan, write, speak, lead, fix, solve, inspire, follow and support."

As the chief administrator for the district, Sherbenou oversees 16 full-time staff, five three-quarters staff and more than 300 part-time staff. "I report to our seven-member volunteer board of directors, who are elected to represent residents of the district," he said.

Sherbenou pretty much does everything related to the district as needed, including preparing and expending budgets (approving expenses and monitoring revenues), crafting policies and procedures as needed, handling human resources issues (evaluation, training, staffing levels, etc.), strategic planning for future facilities, overseeing daily maintenance and operations of more than 100,000 square feet of indoor facilities, more than 50 acres of active use fields, and all programs that are run out of recreation district's facilities.

The Montrose Recreation District currently offers a variety of fitness classes, all of which are included with an annual pass, punch pass or daily admission to the Montrose Community Recreation Center. FitZone, for example, includes a number of classes, some of which include circuit training, Zumba, spin class, barre, yoga and body sculpting. In addition, aquatics classes are offered, such as water aerobics, swim lessons and lifeguard training, as well as sports leagues for youth (such as soccer, baseball/softball and basketball) and for adults (including softball, flag football and volleyball).

As the public information officer, Sherbenou engages with the media, provides outreach and public presentations, and oversees marketing, including the creation and distribution of the activity guide and newsletters.

"I'm our risk manager in working with insurance on claims, as well as maintaining a safe and quality environment in our facilities and at our programs," he said. "I write and administer grants, pursue partnership with mostly public and nonprofit agencies and interface with the public in many ways to best serve our many user groups. This involves management of capital projects, mobilizing consultants and ensuring the best possible outcome for the community.

"All aforementioned duties are completed with my team, who are the main implementers when it comes to providing service to the community," he said. "I'm extremely fortunate to have an awesome team of doers who fully believe in our mission to build community and quality of life in Montrose."

When asked what advice he would give to those just starting out in the recreation industry, he said to "Believe in the importance and essential contribution made by public recreation. But don't take it for granted that the community will support us no matter what or even recognize the essentiality of parks and recreation.

"Hold yourself to high standards of professionalism, accountability and productivity; this will make you more effective," he added. "Play is serious business."

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