Ohio man accepts Elk River park director offer

by Joni Astrup
Associate editor
Michael Hecker has been chosen as Elk River’s new parks and recreation director.
The Elk River City Council voted 5-0 Tuesday, Sept. 6, to offer the job to Hecker after interviewing him and another finalist.
Interim City Administrator Bob Thistle said Thursday that Hecker has accepted the job. “We’re very pleased that he’s accepted and he was very excited about it,” Thistle said. Hecker is scheduled to begin work in Elk River Oct. 3.
Hecker has more than 21 years of experience in municipal government and nonprofit organizations. He currently is the parks and recreation director for the city of Mason, Ohio.
“I have a strong passion for parks and recreation. That comes from the benefits that parks and recreation is able to provide to individuals and communities,” he told the council during his interview.
One of the things that was accomplished in Mason during his tenure was putting together a parks foundation to help provide funding for parks. The foundation obtained $1.1 million in the last three years for park development, Hecker said.
Funding for parks in Elk River is an issue since development has slowed. Fees paid as land developed helped fund many park improvements in Elk River in the past.
Hecker, meanwhile, has been in Mason, Ohio, for 11 years. He had told the council that he’s looking for new challenges and opportunities.
Prior to living in Ohio, Hecker was the parks, culture and recreation director for the city of Unalaska, Alaska and the executive director for the Old Greenwich Riverside Community Center.
He has a bachelor’s degree in operations and systems analysis and a master’s degree in recreation administration.
The other finalist for the position was Tim Webber, who is the executive director of the Western Rio Blanco Metropolitan Recreation and Park District in Rangely, Colo.
Council members Matt Westgaaard and Jerry Gumphrey both expressed some support for Webber, but in the end voted with the rest of the council to hire Hecker. Westgaard said both were strong candidates.
The council had agreed to offer the position to Webber if Hecker had declined it.
The Elk River parks and recreation director position has been vacant since June 2010, when Bill Maertz left for a job in California. Maertz was Elk River’s first parks and recreation director.