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Parks official to retire

jill lufrano

Steve Kastens took his first job with Carson City parks department the same year Jimmy Carter was elected president, Betamax video players first appeared, and “Happy Days” and “The Waltons” were on prime time.

In 1976, the straight-talking and well-liked Carson High School graduate was hired for his first full-time position with the city as recreation supervisor of the city’s newly opened indoor swimming pool and manager of youth basketball at the community center. He was appointed director of Parks and Recreation eight years later and never left the post.

Now, after more than 28 years overseeing parks facilities and program development in the capital city, Kasten plans to leave his position to join his wife in retirement. He will be 52.

Kastens announced his plans Tuesday to the Board of Supervisors and said he will stay until April 1 to see the next budget process through.

Kastens first worked part-time for the city in 1972 as he finished college at the University of Reno, Nevada. It was the same year he married Susan, who retired in May after working 30 years for the state.

“She’s really letting me see what retirement is really like – it looks good,” Kastens said.

Kastens said he has seen the city grow through the years. He ushered the department through budget cuts in the 1980s and the development of Mills Park’s Pony Express Pavilion and improvements, the Edmond’s Sports Complex and Centennial softball complex and the outdoor swimming pool.

During his time, the department benefited from the success of a parks bond in 1986 that funded several of the new park additions and improvements and the passage of the Open Space initiative that provides the city with funds to purchase environmentally important land for preservation.

“The reason I stayed in this job so long is the people,” Kastens said. “All the people I worked with – in the state, city, the citizens and volunteers that run different programs. There’s just a wealth of support for parks and recreation in this community.”

Kastens said he and his wife, whose two grown children live in Reno, have contemplated moving but plan to stay in Carson for a while.

He doesn’t want to be in the way of the next director, he said.

“A lot of people make comments like, ‘They can’t replace you,'” he said. “They will. It’s time for some new thoughts, new ideas and new people to come into the organization. I have no doubts someone will come along and do a nice job.”

In retirement, the Kastens plan to camp and travel in their new recreational vehicle and pickup truck. But then, the two will probably go back to work doing something part-time, he said.

Carson City Manager Linda Ritter, who learned of Kasten’s plans Tuesday, said she wishes him well.

“He’s been so good for the city, we’re going to hate to see him retire,” Ritter said. “He deserves a great retirement.”