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Parks and recreation director retiring, still has plans

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CHIPPEWA FALLS (WQOW) - Dick Hebert had only one career goal in mind when he graduated from UW-La Crosse: he wanted to work for the YMCA. But while waiting for a job opening, something else came up; the position of Recreation Supervisor in his hometown of Chippewa Falls.

"I applied for the job, and I got the job and was thinking 'get some experience and pursue your dream of working at a YMCA' and I stayed with the city for 37 years," Hebert said.

His job was to hire and oversee the staff for the recreation programs, in which Hebert said he must have hired thousands of people in the 27 years he held the position. He added the work he was doing wasn't glamorous, but it was important.

"I'm really proud of the number of programs that we offered and they were very well-run and very popular," he said.

Hebert has been director of the parks and rec department for nearly a decade. With the support of the city council, mayor and park board, he has accomplished a long list of city improvements; such as building the new welcome center at Irvine Park, improving the zoo, and renovating playgrounds at parks all across the city.

"We have added a lot of new playground equipment," he said, reflecting on the past 10 years.

One area of work that has not yet been completed is at Casper Park, where Hebert has been working to add a disc golf course.

"That's one project I want to see completed and I will be staying involved with that project even in retirement," he said.

He also wants to begin work on the new master plan for Flag Hill, such as renovating the bathrooms and adding stairs to walk from Flag Hill to lower Irvine Park. He also wants to get started on plans to renovate Marshall Park before he retires on March 31.

As for why he is retiring after all these years, he said his wife is starting a new job that involves a lot of traveling, and he wants to travel with her. While he's looking forward to this new chapter, he's grateful for the impact he's been able to leave on Chippewa Falls.

"I'm really thankful I was able to hopefully, I think I've improved their quality of life, and I'm really proud of that and I haven't taken that for granted," he said.

Looking back, he doesn't regret not getting that YMCA job when he sees so many people enjoying Chippewa Falls parks.

"I didn't know for sure what I wanted to do," he said. "What degree I wanted to get at UW-La Crosse and I'm really happy that I decided to get the parks and rec degree."

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Felicity Bosk

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