The City of Yankton’s Parks & Recreation Department was not spared COVID-19 pandemic-induced hardship.
However, thanks to the efforts of grounds superintendent Brian Frick, that department has been able to carry on throughout the pandemic. Its these efforts that saw Frick recognized as the city’s employee of the year for 2020 last month.
Frick is no stranger to serving the community, having served with the Yankton Volunteer Fire Department for 37 years.
However, he told the Press & Dakotan that he’s had quite a winding 28-year path of working for the city itself.
“There was a job opening for an animal control officer job that had come open,” Frick said. “I knew you always had to kind of start somewhere I would call towards the bottom, so I applied for the animal control officer job and got that job.”
After that, he held a number of different jobs in different sectors of the city.
“I was in the animal control job for two years and then from there I went to the Yankton Street Department,” he said. “I started there as a garbage man. I was there for about two years and worked my up a little bit. Then there was a job that came open in the water department. I took that job in water distribution.”
After a couple of years in that area, Frick saw a position open up where he’d always had an interest.
“A job came open I the parks department,” he said. “It was a department I was always kind of interested in because I like the feeling of being outside, mowing, weeding and working in the parks and pools.”
Frick eventually took over as grounds superintendent last June.
“My job consists of supervising 10 summer help in the summertime and we have 10 full-timers all year long,” he said. “We take care of the parks, take care of the Summit Activities Center pool and take care of the Huether Aquatics Center pool.”
Upon taking over the position, Frick was immediately faced with the pandemic and its continuing impact on recreational opportunities — and staffing — for the city.
In some cases, it actually meant a little more help for the parks department.
“It’s been a very interesting year,” he said. “With COVID coming, the Summit Activates Center had a couple individuals that normally would work there during the fall. One of them would do our ball diamonds during the summer and he would leave to work at the Summit Activities Center in the wintertime. Seeing as there were no basketball leagues and no volleyball leagues, he needed a place so he’s been working with us this whole time. We had another gal that was off at the Summit Activities Center in the office area and she came to work for us.”
Frick said an employee from the Yankton Community Library also helped out throughout the summer.
However, it meant a little less help in other areas due to state restrictions.
“We are fortunate, always, to get DOC inmates,” he said. “When COVID-19 took place, we no longer received those inmates. Those inmates were vital as far as being able to help us get jobs done.”
Frick said that the city would usually get about four to six inmates to work with the parks department each year.
However, he said those under his supervision in this turbulent year still met the challenge.
“Everybody kind of picked up,” he said. “Everybody had to pick up the pieces where we might have been short and everybody was good about that. With COVID and the masks and everything, it’s been tough, but everybody’s been really good about doing what we needed to do to keep COVID away.”
He said it was quite the experience to be recognized as employee of the year.
“I’ve always tried to do as good as I could for the City of Yankton,” he said. “It’s really a great place to work. Being here 28 years and in the parks department, the city’s always treated us well. To be able to receive that honor and be nominated for that was quite an honor, especially with the challenges of COVID this year.”
City Manager Amy Leon had high praise for Frick.
“What stands out about Brian is he truly enjoys his work,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Brian without a smile on his face.”
Frick said that he’s appreciative of the opportunity to work with the city.
“The city is really a great place to work,” he said. “I’ve worked with a lot of different individuals in my 28 years with the city and the 37 years on the volunteer fire department. I appreciate that.”
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