Carson City’s Parks, Recreation & Open Space is whole again after two major retirements in the department earlier this year.
Jennifer Budge, director, joined the department in late May, overlapping a week with Roger Moellendorf, who retired as director after 12 years.
On Aug. 1, Steven Brunner will come on board as deputy director, replacing Scott Fahrenbruch, who retired in April after 22 years.
“The department has had a lot of change with Roger and Scott leaving at the same time. I want to be a good steward for what they did,” said Budge, who joined the department from Washoe County, where she was parks operations superintendent.
That’s meant spending a lot of time getting to know the department’s 30 full-time employees.
“Right now, I’m trying to make some time with each staff person, to get to know them, their program and the facility they run, what’s important to them and their aspirations so I can support them professionally,” she said.
Budge also is developing a plan for taking an inventory of the department’s more than two dozen parks, trails, facilities such as the Aquatics Facility and equipment, including aging playground apparatus.
She hopes to get started on collecting the data once the department’s busy summer season is over.
The goal is a comprehensive preservation plan that helps the department budget and plan for taking care of its assets.
“I want to create a condition index, like for roads,” said Budge.
Such an index helps Public Works monitor roads and prioritize maintenance and repairs.
“We need to look at parks the exact same way,” she said.
Budge also wants to bring her expertise, and passion, she says, for writing grants.
That includes federal pass-through grants but also looking to private foundations, which have vested interests in helping local communities.
“Just counting on the general fund isn’t realistic in our business,” Budge said. “We have to get creative.”
Budge has known for a long time parks and recreation was what she wanted to do.
She was born and raised in Reno and graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, where she graduated with a degree in municipal recreation administration.
But it started before that, when she worked year-round as a lifeguard for the city of Reno while she attended Reno High School.
“I was a swim team brat. I grew up around pools. I started swimming for health reasons. I had asthma and the doctor said it would be good for my lung capacity,” said Budge.
Before coming to Carson City, Budge was parks operations superintendent for Washoe County for two years, where she oversaw 13,000 acres, about twice the size of Carson City’s park system.
Prior to that, she was parks planner for 10 years with the county and managed the project to build the Galena Creek Visitors Center at a time when the U.S. Forest Service, a partner in the project, had put a moratorium on new visitors centers.
She also acquired the land from the Bureau of Land Management and worked with the community to design and build the 350-acre Sun Valley Regional Park.
“Project management is a big part of my experience,” Budge said. “From writing grants to land acquisition to design, construction, programming. I’ve been involved in it all.”