HURON – Iowa native Colby Vlieger will draw on his love of the outdoors and early experience supervising staff and overseeing facilities in his new role as the new manager of Central Park and Splash Central.
Vlieger, 23, grew up in Indianola, a town about the same size as Huron, just down the road to the south of Iowa's capital city of Des Moines.
After high school, he took his skills as a wrestler to Simpson College, a small Division III, private liberal arts school in his hometown. He wrestled throughout his college career while pursuing a major in exercise science.
On his graduation, he found there weren't a lot of employment options that interested him. “Mostly it was personal training, working in a gym and I wasn't sure that that's what I wanted to do,” he said.
“I always had a passion for being outside and doing physical activities,” Vlieger said.
Instead of a job, he decided to go back to school, enrolling at Minnesota State University's Mankato, Minn., campus in a master's degree program in sport management.
“When I went up there initially I thought I wanted to do college athletics or pro sports or something along that route,” he said.
But after learning more about it and doing some of his own research, he thought a career in parks and recreation might be a good fit.
He spent a summer internship with the city of West Des Moines, where he did a lot of the programming and led youth, day and middle school camps.
“After my summer was over, I knew that parks and rec was going to be the kind of career I wanted to go into,” Vlieger said.
When it was time to once again begin looking for job opportunities, he checked out his options in Iowa and Minnesota. He had a few interviews, but also looked elsewhere around the Midwest. It was then that he spotted the Central Park opening in Huron.
He submitted his application and was invited to town for an interview. But he said he wasn't sure about coming here at first.
“When I got up here, I felt really comfortable with the city,” Vlieger said. “It's about the same size as my hometown. Everyone here is really super nice, real supportive.”
He said he drove home with a good feeling about his interview experience, and about 10 days later got the call when he was offered the job.
At the same time he is getting acclimated to his new surroundings and his position at Central Park and Splash Central, he is finishing his master's degree online.
“It being the third week, it's kind of a learning process a little bit,” Vlieger said in an interview in his Campus Center office.
“I'm picking up a lot as I go, but I've never really worked managing a pool before. I've done a lot of facilities stuff through my undergrad degree working with the college. I did a lot of that stuff with sports and getting all that set up and managing staff,” he said.
This will be the sixth season for Splash Central, and Vlieger said there will likely be some maintenance issues that will need to be addressed.
Then there are all the kids that will need to be hired in the coming months. He said the facility will need 60-plus lifeguards, four or five pool managers, a couple of head lifeguards, 20 to 35 concessions workers and a couple of managers for that.
His predecessor, Kileey Lueck, provided him with a list of people who worked at Splash Central last year and who might want to reapply. He's hoping they can help him get up to speed once the park opens.
“As far as managing a pool, it's kind of uncharted territory for me,” he said.
For now, anyway. It won't be long, and he'll be diving in as well.