By David Markham
A 24-year veteran of JCPRD was recently tapped as the agency’s new assistant superintendent of recreation.
Michelle Alexander began in her new role on Jan. 9. She filled a position left vacant in September when former Assistant Superintendent of Recreation Shannon Sonnier became the division’s superintendent.
“I saw it as an exciting opportunity to help steer the future of our division and the organization from a different seat,” Alexander said of her new position. “JCPRD has a reputation as a place that attracts a talented and passionate workforce, is a national leader in providing innovate recreation services, and has an environment that supports the staff that makes it all happen. I’m dedicated to ensuring that remains true for both our current and future recreation professionals. I’m a strong advocate for all we do at JCPRD.”
Alexander is a lifelong Shawnee resident who has been married to her husband, Chris, for 23 years. They have two daughters; one is a junior at Shawnee Mission Northwest High School, and the other is a sophomore at the University of Kansas. She holds a bachelor of science in recreation administration from Pittsburg State University, and first came to JCPRD’s 50 Plus Department in September 1998. She has served as a recreation coordinator, director of the Olathe 50 Plus program, recreation coordinator for Roeland Park, and a center specialist. She became 50 Plus manager in September 2014.
“I loved the variety of programs, services, and events we bring to our community that provide the opportunity for individuals to connect with others, improve their health and wellness, learn something new, travel across the globe, and have fun,” she said of the 50 Plus manager’s position. “I loved collaborating with our community partners on both long-standing and new initiatives. I loved the relationships I built with our participants. I loved watching new team members have success and instilling in them the importance of what we do.”
Alexander is quick to add that she considers JCPRD staff the agency’s greatest strength.
“What makes our services the best in our community and the best across the nation are those that create them and execute them with the highest level of pride and excellence,” she said. “The passion I’ve witnessed in my colleagues, at every level, for what they do for those they serve is what keeps me working hard every day too.”
Asked what she sees as her biggest accomplishment in the 50 Plus department, Alexander mentioned her efforts to integrate facility operations into the 50 Plus department.
“I was instrumental in taking over the operations of the Roeland Park Community Center in partnership with the city of Roeland Park, and opening Meadowbrook Park Clubhouse,” she said. “Both facilities have helped our department's programs and staff flourish.”
As is the case for many other agencies and businesses right now, filling temporary and part-time staff positions is among the biggest challenges facing the recreation division at this time, Alexander said.
“There is a shortage of lifeguards, officials, and there has been a shift in our society when it comes to how individuals of all ages are choosing part-time work,” she said. “Finding ways to attract and keep our part-time positions filled is essential to maintaining the great services our community expects from us. That will be at the top of my list to help our team with. My other goals and plans are pretty simple at this early stage, and they include providing support and resources to our division and organization as best I can from the seat I’m sitting in.”