April 2021 Spotlight Professional

Jennifer Papich – Recreation Director for the City of Spokane & 2021–2022 WRPA President

Describe the scope of your position in parks and recreation.  

I am the Recreation Director for the City of Spokane. I oversee and provide support to our outstanding recreation supervisory team who are responsible for the following areas: Aquatics, Outdoor, Therapeutic, Athletics, Sports Complexes, Art, Wellness & Golf.

I am also the incoming WRPA President for 2021—2022.

How long have you been with your present agency? 

I have been with the City of Spokane since April of 2017, so going on my fourth year.

Background experience and previous careers?

  • Eastern Washington University Grad GO EAGS!
  • Previously I was with the City of Spokane Valley as a Recreation Supervisor for 11 years
  • I have also worked for the amazing Cities of Mercer Island, Renton, and Federal Way

What were some of your first jobs, and what did you learn from them?

  • Well, my very first job in High School was at Godfathers Pizza and I learned people like having an “in” on Buffett night, so I guess that equates to it’s not what you know but who you know
  • My first recreation-related position was working after school program for the Spokane YMCA where I learned the positive impact and difference parks and recreation makes in young people’s lives
  • I spent a summer at Kah-Nee-Tah Resort in Warm Springs, OR as a kayak guide, lifeguard, and activities coordinator – I learned the importance of community with the people that I worked with being away from home and from anything familiar to me. I also became very aware of the responsibility we have for people's wellbeing and safety when they are our program participants.
  • When I was in my internship with the City of Federal Way Parks and Recreation I learned what true family parks and recreation professionals are, how we support each other, how we are all one big team, we all work so very hard but have a great time doing it, we don’t take ourselves too seriously, and like Big Brother, you have to always expect the unexpected

Why are you passionate about the parks and recreation field?

We are all in this profession because we want to change lives, we want to leave this world better than we found it, we are public servants who are inspired by creativity, collaboration, and community. We are a profession that thrives on lifting each other up, supporting each other and we believe that when one of us succeeds we all succeed.

So, why am I passionate about parks and recreation?  Why wouldn’t I be happy? I love this amazing field we are in, all of you, and everything we do!

What has been your biggest professional challenge? 

Saying NO. Who wants to do that? 

Financial limitations are often that speed bump that stops your momentum, it is that roadblock that puts a damper on creativity and opportunity. 

The challenge is to remain optimistic and not let that budget speed bump become a complete barrier;  to task yourself to break through the frustration and figure out ways to get whatever it is accomplished.

What’s the best advice you can give to someone starting out in the field of parks and recreation? 

NETWORK, learn, listen, experience all of it, participate, get involved (in WRPA), don’t limit yourself, always ask how you can help, volunteer to assist outside your specific area,  go outside of your comfort zone...as with anything in life, you get out what you put in.