Several years ago, Scott Jaquish had an opportunity to meet with George Wilson, a pioneer of the Milwaukee Public School system and one of the founding members of the Wisconsin Park & Recreation Association, and pick his brain.
At the time, Jaquish worked in Oconomowoc as an up-and-coming member of the Parks and Recreation community.
“George would stop in now and then and I was a young guy who thought he knew it all,” Jaquish said. “Talking with him brought a whole new sense of passion and what our profession means to people. I learned so much from him, and he was the type of person that wanted to learn from you.”
Knowing the kind of person Wilson provides a unique level of perspective to Jaquish, the City of Greenfield’s Parks and Recreation director who next week will be presented the George Wilson Service Award, one of the highest awards given by the WPRA.
Jaquish will be honored Thursday, Nov. 3, during the five-day WPRA annual conference and trade show in Green Bay.
For Jaquish, the award isn’t a one-man accomplishment.
“I don’t think there’s any award that anyone can win that’s an individual award,” Jaquish said. “This really is a department wide award. You look at the staff and the things we’ve done over the year. This (award) is the culmination of all of that.”
Jaquish came to Greenfield in 1996 after working in Oconomowoc’s Parks and Recreation Department for seven years. In December 2000, Jaquish became Greenfield’s director.
He remembers the first project he saw through from start to finish, the creation of Creekwood Park, and is particularly fond of the more recent development of Jim Smrz Park, named after a founding member of the Partners of Parks and Recreation. At that same park is a bench in honor of Ron Prodoehl, another founding member.
“Those were people who have had a huge impact on the city and the department well before me,” Jaquish said. “I was able to take from them and learn from them and then give something back to their family.”
But perhaps no project in Jaquish’s tenure will have a longer lasting impact than the city’s Community Center, which opened in July.
Originally the city’s library, the building was renovated into a beautiful facility earlier this year at a cost of roughly $600,000, all of which came through donations and fundraisers.
“That’s something we saw a need for, for many years, but it wasn’t until just recently that a real opportunity to do something was there,” Jaquish said. “And as a group we were able to capitalize. That’s one of the biggest impacts that we could have had on the community.”
The community center project and Jaquish’s efforts to move it forward were not lost on the WPRA.
“It’s truly fantastic they were able to take the old library and turn it into a great community center,” said Steven Thompson, the WPRA Executive Director and a Greenfield resident. “Greenfield is one of the unique communities in the nation that, with Scott’s leadership, can find ways to work around budget shortcomings and limitations. … His big success is partnerships with other organizations so his department can share expenses and facilities with others.”
Greenfield Mayor Michael Neitzke, who was an alderman when the Common Council approved Jaquish as the department’s director, echoed Thompson’s sentiments.
“I’m thrilled that he got the award. No one is more deserving,” Neitzke said. “He’s an example of the kind of leadership that we have in the city that does a lot more with a lot less. Examples like the community center, where other communities are paying millions of dollars, Scott managed to put together a budget that had no taxpayer support and is running the operation like a business.”
Jaquish said his department, like many others in the city, is always looking for ways to do things more efficiently and effectively, especially in recent years as the city’s budget has been tightened.
He said his profession is in constant flux as well. The department does things differently today than it did five years ago and will continue to evolve with the changing needs of its constituents.
“Programs come and go and evolve,” he said. “No one knew what Zumba was a couple years ago, and now it’s one of the biggest fitness crazes out there. A couple years down the road, something different will come along.
“You have to adapt and change. That’s a challenge not just here but anywhere.”