By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Most any person taking over as a city department head would have a big learning curve in front of them, but Justin Casperson — the city’s new parks and recreation director — might have a slight advantage over many newcomers. That is because he really is not one. Casperson was born and raised in Marshfield and graduated from Columbus Catholic High School.
Attending UW-La Crosse, Casperson earned a degree in recreation management and then served as the parks and recreation manager in Germantown before coming back to Marshfield. He said that being close to family and the opportunity to work in the forward-thinking Marshfield community were the driving factors in bringing him back home after 20 years of being away.
“It was for the most part a move closer to family,” Casperson said. “Marshfield really seemed to be the right fit. It’s a progressive community. It (has) a lot of amenities that I would like to be a part of, and that was the zoo and the pool and a great park system and kind of an open minded way of thinking about quality of life issues in the community.”
He added that he feels recreation is important to the Marshfield community, another factor in his desire to come to town. Casperson also praised the colleagues with whom he will be working.
“I think the elected officials and the mayor, … the administration are willing to have positive conversations about some of the challenges that might be facing the community,” he said. “They’re willing to actually sit down and (say), ‘Let’s have a good conversation and come to a solution and start talking about how we can actually get to our solution.’”
Besides finding the bathroom and figuring out the copy machine, Casperson will have plenty to work on as he settles into his new role. The Adler Family Kodiak Bear Exhibit is now under construction, and parks and recreation offices will eventually move into the new community center as part of the Everett Roehl Marshfield Public Library project. In addition, Casperson said decisions will soon have to be made about the state of Hefko Pool.
“The biggest challenge right now facing our department will be the (Hefko) pool. What will we as a department and elected officials and city government as well as the community, … what are we going to do with that pool? Are we going to build new? Are we going to build there? Are we going to build somewhere else? Are we just going to tear it down and fill it in with concrete and be done with it?”
He said that those questions would need to be answered over the next few years and that he does not yet have an opinion on what should be done with Hefko because of how new he is in the position.
Casperson said he was always interested in city government but felt that parks and recreation would be the aspect of it that would be the most enjoyable.
“Parks and recreation is kind of the fun department,” he said. “That quality of life thing is something that I think is valuable to every community, and the emphasis in this community seems to be high on quality of life issues.”
He added that he believes Marshfield has above average parks and recreation facilities and gave credit to former Parks and Recreation Director Ed Englehart particularly in maintaining and improving Wildwood Park and Zoo and Steve J. Miller Recreation Area.
Marshfield’s Parks and Recreation Department can be reached at 715-384-4642.