Whitman to lead Parks and Rec
By Angie Landsverk
Andrew Whitman is the city of Waupaca’s new parks and recreation director.
“It’s a unique opportunity to help the community and be a leader in the community,” he said.
The Waupaca native had been the city’s recreation program supervisor since February 2014, and also its interim parks and rec director the past three months.
That was after Aaron Jenson resigned from the position to become the Waupaca School District’s new athletic/activities director.
City Administrator Henry Veleker said the city received 16 applications for the department head position and chose six for interviews.
One of the six dropped out of the process prior to the interviews.
After interviewing the five candidates, the committee brought two of them back for second interviews.
“Andrew was one of the two,” Veleker said.
Mayor Brian Smith recommended Whitman be appointed to the position, and the common council approved it when it met on June 5.
Ald. Chuck Whitman abstained, as he is Whitman’s father.
The appointment was effective June 6.
The mayor congratulated Whitman and said it was a unanimous decision of the committee to appoint him to the position.
Smith, Veleker, Ald. Eric Olson and Parks and Recreation Board member Dana Gustke served on the committee.
Two parks and recreation directors also helped with the process.
Whitman looks forward to leading the department and continuing to move it forward.
“What was intriguing about the position I was in was working with kids, being able to coach them, work with them,” Whitman said. “I will still be able to do that. That is what led me to this field – being able to work with kids and communicate with them.”
He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and from Ohio University with a master’s degree in coaching education.
After graduate school, he was an instructor at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, teaching health, wellness and activity courses to students who were physical education majors.
In 2007, he moved back to Waupaca and began working at Health and Fitness Headquarters as a personal trainer.
A year later, Whitman joined the Waupaca Fire Department.
He and his wife Andrea have two sons: 5 1/2-year-old Liam and 2 1/2-year old Ellis.
The department Whitman now leads is about more than sports.
“To me, it’s about having safe places for kids to be and offering programs so kids have something positive and safe in their life,” he said. “I think that’s important for any community.
He said the department has programs for youth and adults, and also includes Waupaca’s Senior Center.
“It encompasses a lot of different activities and events for the whole community,” he said.
During the past several years, the department introduced a number of new community events, including movie nights, a Halloween party, date nights, Winter Rec Fest and father/daughter and mother/son nights.
“Creating those opportunities – I think that’s a good direction to go,” Whitman said. “We still offer all our youth and adult programs, but are here for the community.”
He said additional programs have been added at the senior center as well.
“It’s not just exercise, but computers, taxes,” Whitman said.
The senior center’s staff helps people lead quality lives.
“I think one of the things we can do better is make people aware of what we do offer and get people plugged into it, because we do offer so many things,” he said.
One of his goals for the department is more community engagement.
Whitman would like to see people adopt parks and trail segments and help keep them clean and safe.
He wants to see people take ownership of the parks and community.
Waupaca’s parks and its rec center are safe places for people to be, he said.
“It’s nice to have a place like this, a safe place for kids to come and hang out and be active,” he said of the rec center. “It’s important for kids to be active on a daily basis. Research has shown the importance of being outside, being in parks and just being active. – for everyone.”