New Parks & Rec chief in love with job

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Ben Oldiges started this week as Covington’s new Parks & Rec manager.

Oldiges brings passion, 15 years’ experience to critical position
COVINGTON, Ky. – When Ben Oldiges was 15, he took a part-time summer job with Boone County Parks & Recreation overseeing kickball games and craft activities.
He realized – immediately – what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
“People in this field often say that parks and recreation finds the person, and that the person doesn’t find parks and recreation (but instead falls into it almost accidentally),” Oldiges said. “But I’m unique in that I actively sought it out. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted this to be my career.”
That passion – and his almost 15 years’ of experience – explain why the City of Covington hired Oldiges to be its new Parks & Recreation manager. He started this week with the City, replacing Rosie Santos, who left in late summer to work in Hamilton County.
Covington received more than 280 applications for the position from around the country, but Oldiges stood out as someone who could manage both the “parks” and the “recreation” aspects of the job, said Ken Smith, director of the City’s Neighborhood Services Department.
“With duties that include everything from developing policies to managing people, budgets, and public discourse, the manager’s position requires a wide range of skills,” Smith said. “Ben is someone we think can do all aspects of the job, and there’s good reason he was ranked as the top candidate by an interview committee.”
Oldiges’ hiring was approved by the Board of Commissioners on Sept. 29.
A Covington resident, he worked for 10 years in Boone County as a park manager and four years for the Cincinnati Recreation Commission overseeing two recreation centers.
Oldiges has a bachelor’s degree in parks and recreation from Eastern Kentucky University and an MBA from Thomas More University. He runs 5K races and leads group fitness “spinning” classes. 
“Covington is a dream situation for me,” he said. “The city has a strong foundation for its parks system and the parks themselves are already at a high level. I want to help elevate that.”
Smith said Oldiges will “inherit” a host of high-level priorities, including:
  • Implementing parts of a comprehensive plan that is in the finishing stages.
  • Continuing the ongoing neighborhood parks redevelopment schedule, with construction of Barb Cook Park and planning/design for Goebel Park under way now.
  • Handling the pending opening of the downtown section of the Riverfront Commons hiking and biking trail and its new amphitheater.
  • Working under the ever-present and frustrating budget constraints.
  • Continuing to manage and make best use of the vast, multi-dimensional asset that is Devou Park.
  • And adapting activities, programs, and attractions to stay ahead of the evolving interests and needs of Covington’s families and visitors.
Oldiges said he looked forward to figuring out the future of the Parks & Rec division.
“You have to pay attention to trends, observe social media, talk to friends, and watch what people attend and what hobbies and activities they participate in,” he said.
Oldiges used an analogy – his grandfather’s farm on which he worked in his youth – to make his point about being open to change:
“Every once in a while you have to move the fields and rotate the crops,” he said. “You have to keep it fresh.”

About Covington Parks & Rec

Covington has nearly 1,000 acres of parkland and green space spread out over 40 different parks, playgrounds and facilities, including about 700 acres that make up the expansive Devou Park and its golf course and biking trails.
The City directly manages about 30 facilities on nearly 200 acres, including the Licking River Greenway & Trails, the Riverfront Commons trail under construction, the 54-acre Bill Cappel Sports Complex (with its baseball diamonds and soccer fields), two full-size swimming pools, a water park, and an array of smaller playgrounds.
Historically, the City’s programs and events have centered on providing affordable fun for families with a wide array of activities, such as the annual fishing derby for kids, aquatic aerobics for seniors, Easter Egg hunts, basketball skills clinics, yoga in public settings, one-day swim events for dogs, arts and crafts at parks and playgrounds, Tai Chi classes for adults, and outdoor movies.
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