Elk River chooses new parks, recreation director

by Joni Astrup
Associate editor
The manager of parks, recreation and the ice arena for the city of Cottage Grove has been chosen as Elk River’s new parks and recreation director.
The Elk River City Council voted 5-0 April 18 to direct City Administrator Lori Johnson to negotiate with Zac Dockter. The offer is contingent on the outcome of Dockter’s background and reference checks. Johnson told council members that Cottage Grove also would like to keep him.
The council chose Dockter after interviewing him during a special council meeting April 18.
He was one of 113 applicants. Five of the applicants were interviewed by a committee. Dockter was the only candidate the committee recommended be interviewed by the city council.
Dockter has been the parks, recreation and ice arena manager in Cottage Grove for the last 10 years. Prior to that he managed the ice arena in Princeton. He has a degree in business management from St. Cloud State University.
He told the council he is interested in the job because Elk River seems like a very forward-thinking, active community with regard to parks and recreation. “There are cities twice your size that would absolutely love to have the amount of parks you have, the facilities you have,” he said.
He also said his wife is from the area.
During the council interview, Dockter was asked about his strengths. He said he is a strong leader, very easy to get along with and a “pretty mellow” person.
“I make way more friends than I do enemies. I don’t think I have any enemies,” he said.
He also said he’s a team player and doesn’t hold grudges.
Dockter said he’s passionate about parks and recreation and lives it. He plays hockey and softball, golfs and likes to fish. When he has spare time, he likes to take his kids to a park.
After the interview, the council discussed the matter before voting to offer him the job.
Mayor John Dietz thinks Dockter would hit the ground running and believes he would be a very good leader.
Council Member Paul Motin described Dockter as “really solid.”
Other council members also spoke in favor of hiring him.
Before voting, the council asked Elk River Parks and Recreation Commission Chair Dave Anderson, who was in the audience and served on the interview committee, what his thoughts were on Dockter.
Anderson replied: “I’m very impressed. I don’t impress easily.”
Dockter would become just the second parks and recreation director in the city’s history. Bill Maertz was the first one. Maertz worked for the city for six years until last June, when he left for a job in California.
The city offered the job to another candidate last year, but she declined it. That resulted in another search that led to Dockter.
The position is a super department head overseeing not only parks and recreation but the ice arena, library, Pinewood Golf Course, senior center and activity center.

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