Shelly Slapak

Editor’s Note: Kicks presents 20Q, a feature that introduces readers to people involved in the area’s arts and entertainment community. Compiled by kicks Editor Greg Little, each piece will include a short bio, photo and answers to questions that provide insight into not only that person’s artistic interests but also his or her unique personality.

Shelley Slapak

“We get paid to play.”

That’s a common refrain often repeated by recreation majors, and it is one familiar to the recreation director for the city of Janesville.

Shelley Slapak holds a bachelor’s degree in recreation management from UW-La Crosse and a master’s degree in recreation from George Williams College in Williams Bay. She is married to Cullen Slapak, Janesville’s parks director, and the pair have a 18-month-old daughter, Marin, a baby boy on the way and a dog, Tindra.

Away from work, Shelley still spends as much time outdoors as possible. Along with checking out any and all activities going on in Janesville and the rest of the state, she enjoys exploring parks, hiking, kayaking and cross-country skiing/snowshoeing.

To learn more about Janesville’s Recreation Division and all it has to offer, call 608-755-3030 or visit ci.janesville.wi.us and search for “recreation division.”

1. How and why did you get into recreation management? After I finished my first year at UW-La Crosse with an undecided major, I knew I needed to make some decisions over the summer months. I had heard of the recreation management degree, so I decided to do some seasonal work back home over the summer with Beloit Leisure Services. I took note of what my supervisor was doing and in charge of and realized the field was something I had passion for.

2. Can I rent snowshoes from the recreation division? What else can I rent from you? Our office has an extensive equipment rental program including both snowshoes and cross-country skis for youth and adults in the winter months. We also have sports items such as a tug-of-war rope and bags sets, carnival games such as duck pond, and special event items like PA systems. We even have unique items like our relay race or “Minute to Win it” game kits.

3. What is your favorite music genre? I listen to the newer type of country music as well as popular music or Top 100 songs.

4. How do you persuade a kid to go outside and play in the summer when he/she would rather sit inside in air conditioning and play video games? What’s most important is to show that child what can occur outside.

5. You must spend a lot of time outdoors. Do you have any allergies? I do spend a lot of time outdoors regardless of season. I don’t have any known allergies, but I do know I dislike it when it gets dark early and outside time is shortened.

6. I’m guessing the recreation division is constantly replacing stolen/broken volleyballs, frisbees, etc. What single item tends to be the most difficult to keep in stock? We don’t really have items stolen, but they are broken. The canopy tents and bean bag targets seem to be the most-often replaced items. The canopy tent and our folding tables/chairs are the hardest to keep in stock as they are popular for graduation parties, etc.

7. Share a responsibility of the recreation division that people might not realize falls under your umbrella. The recreation division is responsible for public event application process/approvals for public special events on city right-of-ways and parkland. We process over 100 public events each year.

8. Were you ever involved with a youth group such as Girls Scouts or 4-H? I was in Girl Scouts when I was younger. Those types of groups are important for youth because they expose you to new activities and socialization. And it is fun to collect badges!

9. Are you a health food fan, or do you tend to munch on junk food? I think I’m pretty balanced with my eating. I try to eat healthy foods, but I definitely don’t deprive myself of my favorite mocha latte or junk food once in a while.

10. How do you get a group of 200 young kids to do what you want them to if they don’t want to do it? It’s important to show them what you want them to do as opposed to just telling them. Once they get engaged in the activity at hand, it is much easier to get and keep their interest.

11. Do senior citizens in Janesville take advantage of the city’s many recreational offerings? I think older adults do take advantage of our recreational opportunities, whether it be lap swim, nature programs such as the owl hike or spring wildflower walk, special events or various programs/trips hosted by the senior center. We currently have over 800 members at the senior center, which is open to individuals age 50 and older. If people are not participating in programs, we often hear it’s because they didn’t know about it or they are just too busy.

12. How has social media changed the way you do your job? Social media is extremely important for the recreation division. It is the top way to get the word out on our programs and events to the masses, and this form of advertising is oftentimes one of the cheapest methods. People like tracking what is going on in the community by becoming interested in events posted on Facebook, so we try to create an event post with details for all our events. We also try to keep people engaged on our page by posting a minimum of once per day. We have to be conscious of all the positive and negative feedback on social media.

13. Are you a city person or a country person? If I had to pick one, I would say a city person. I like having amenities, stores and events right at my fingertips. However, I do like to get away from it all and visit various county/state parks for peaceful hiking and exploring.

14. Name the one item you own that you could not live without. I would have to say my phone or camera since they capture all of my favorite moments/memories in life. I love looking back through them. Those memories always bring a smile to my face.

15. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most, how competitive are you? I was way more competitive when I was younger than what I am now, but I would say I would probably still be an 8.

16. In your opinion, is it ever too hot to be outside? I think it can definitely be too hot outside to be doing certain physical activities, so you just have to adjust the activity, take lots of water breaks and seek shelter from the elements as needed.

17. When I was in college, the rec students all bragged that they “get paid to play.” Do you feel that way, or do people not understand how difficult your job really is? Yes, I have heard that saying a lot! The reality is our job is fun because it is something we are passionate about, but it can also be very stressful and overwhelming at times—especially during the spring and summer months. Positions are often salary-based, so you put in a lot of extra hours on the evenings and weekends on a regular basis without extra pay.

18. Are there any recreational opportunities that you have done so many times you have no interest in doing them again? There are so many recreational opportunities and parks to visit that I really don’t do a lot of repeating things. I keep lists of events and activities going on not only in Janesville and Wisconsin, but elsewhere. I try to get to them all, but it is impossible. There really is something going on here all the time.

19. People would be surprised to know that I: Not really a surprise to people who know me, but I really like glitter.

20. Why do you do what you do? I do what I do each day at work because I truly believe in the value of parks and recreation in communities. Recreation programs/parks bring quality of life to communities, provide socialization and health and wellness opportunities, have an economic impact, and so much more!