In The Last Word, we sit down with an industry expert to share their wealth of knowledge. In the 2023 July/August issue, the conversation features Stacey Dicke, the former director of New Braunfels Parks and Recreation, and current executive director of the New Braunfels Youth Collaborative.
1. How did you get started in the community recreation industry?
I was a lifeguard at our city pool in high school. When I was in the 10th grade, our church youth had a weekend event with college students from Texas State University serving as our leaders. One of the students was a parks and recreation major and described the course work and career possibilities to me. I was sold. I went home and told my parents I wanted to be a parks and recreation major.
2. What’s been a key to your team’s success? What are you most proud of?
Our team has been successful because we’re all bought in to the same vision. We’re not in this profession for the fame or glory but rather because we want to have an impact on our residents — whether improving health, providing jobs, creating social engagement or preserving the environment. We all believe parks and recreation contributes to thriving, exciting, beautiful and safe places to live and play. I’m proud of our team achieving Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies accreditation through the National Recreation and Park Association in 2020. This was a multi-year effort ensuring our department is implementing strategic and beneficial policies, planning, programs, and events for our community.
3. What has been one of the biggest accomplishments of your career?
I feel grateful for the opportunity to lead the team in New Braunfels. I’ve had the pleasure of leading some of the brightest and committed professionals in the industry.
4. What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career?
One of the biggest challenges is learning to deal with very passionate customers who are in opposition to a staff recommendation. As Leslie Knope said, “What I hear when people are yelling at me is people caring loudly.” We must know we cannot please everyone, and we definitely cannot move forward by digging our heels in the ground. My experience has been when you spend time getting to know people, the joint understanding we are seeking comes much quicker.
5. What is one lesson you have learned that other community recreation professionals can learn from?
I’ve learned you must stay true to yourself — your values, beliefs, strengths and ethics. You will not make everyone happy. But, if you can lay down at night knowing you did your best with the best intentions, you will be able to rest soundly. And forgive yourself. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. When that happens, own it, learn from it and move on. If you are afraid of failing, you will miss the opportunity to fly.
6. Tell us one fact about yourself others may not know.
We were just blessed with our first grandson. Goodness, how life has changed with one event. Being a grandparent is just the best.