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Covington's New Parks & Rec Director in Love with Job

The City of Covington named its new parks & recreation director earlier this month.

Ben Oldiges first fell in love with this line of work when he was 15 and took a part-time summer job with Boone County Parks & Recreation, overseeing kickball games and craft activities.

“People in this field often say that parks and recreation finds the person, and that the person doesn’t find parks and recreation (but instead falls into it almost accidentally),” Oldiges said. “But I’m unique in that I actively sought it out. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted this to be my career.”

Now with nearly fifteen years of professional experience, Oldiges is the manager of the parks and rec department in Northern Kentucky's largest city. He replaces Rosie Santos who took a job with Hamilton County, Oh.

More than 280 people applied for the position, but Covington Neighborhood Services Director Ken Smith said that Oldiges stood out.

“With duties that include everything from developing policies to managing people, budgets, and public discourse, the manager’s position requires a wide range of skills,” Smith said. “Ben is someone we think can do all aspects of the job, and there’s good reason he was ranked as the top candidate by an interview committee.”

Oldiges, who lives in Covington, was confirmed by the city commission on September 29.

He spend ten years as a park manager in Boone County and four years overseeing two recreation centers for the Cincinnati Recreation Commission. Oldiges has a bachelor's degree in parks and recreation from Eastern Kentucky University and a master's in business administration from Thomas More University.

In his spare time, he runs 5K races and leads group fitness spinning classes.

“Covington is a dream situation for me,” he said. “The city has a strong foundation for its parks system and the parks themselves are already at a high level. I want to help elevate that.”

Smith said Oldiges will “inherit” a host of high-level priorities, including:

  • Implementing parts of a comprehensive plan that is in the finishing stages.
  • Continuing the ongoing neighborhood parks redevelopment schedule, with construction of Barb Cook Park and planning/design for Goebel Park under way now.
  • Handling the pending opening of the downtown section of the Riverfront Commons hiking and biking trail and its new amphitheater.
  • Working under the ever-present and frustrating budget constraints.
  • Continuing to manage and make best use of the vast, multi-dimensional asset that is Devou Park.
  • And adapting activities, programs, and attractions to stay ahead of the evolving interests and needs of Covington’s families and visitors.

Oldiges said that he looked forward to figuring out the future of the Parks & Rec division.

“You have to pay attention to trends, observe social media, talk to friends, and watch what people attend and what hobbies and activities they participate in,” he said.

Oldiges used an analogy – his grandfather’s farm on which he worked in his youth – to make his point about being open to change:

“Every once in a while you have to move the fields and rotate the crops,” he said. “You have to keep it fresh.”

-Staff report

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