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Good Living
Recreation is hard work PDF Print E-mail
Written by MITCH MAERSCH   
Wednesday, 10 January 2018 17:13

Recreation Director Kiley Schulte works long hours to ensure that the people of Port Washington have opportunities to stay active and enjoy their beautiful city

Port Washington Recreation Director Kiley Schulte grew up near water and developed a love of being active.
But it wasn’t until a break from college that she found her true passion.
Schulte was an aspiring physical therapist majoring in kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire until the program changed to require a doctorate, which caused her to change gears. She took some time off to figure out what she really wanted to do.
Schulte found it — or it found her —  working the front desk at the South Shore YMCA in Cudahy a few summers ago.
Elm Grove Recreation Director Erin Cross worked out at the YMCA and encouraged Schulte to work for her as an intern.
Schulte didn’t want to leave since she just started the job, but Cross persisted. Schulte soon came around.
“I just couldn’t pass up that opportunity,” she said.
One summer at Elm Grove put Schulte’s new career path in motion.
“It sparked something in me and I reconnected with myself, and I knew what I wanted to do,” she said. “I just blossomed as a person.”
Schulte went back to school. Two days after graduating, she took an interim job as aquatics and recreation director at Cambridge, filling in for someone on maternity leave.
Then, it was back to working as rec assistant at Elm Grove for the summer of 2015. The village kept Schulte on staff in fall, using her in various capacities across a few departments. She helped dig ditches and culverts and mow and trim grass and bushes.
“I learned a lot of what goes into every job,” she said.
That experience served her well when she came to Port Washington as recreation supervisor in January 2016. She was recently promoted her to director.
“I will pick up a wheelbarrow and work along side my staff,” Schulte said. “I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty.”
Schulte is from Mosinee, where her three sisters and one brother grew up in a small house with one bathroom. Schulte fished in the Wisconsin River every day and learned to hunt. She did pole vault in high school and college track and field.
“I love community. I love the sense of family, and activity is something that’s always been ingrained into me,” she said.
Her father is an electrician and mother works at an eye care clinic. Schulte is the first member of her family’s generation to graduate with a four-year degree.
Her family enjoys coming to visit Port, especially on Fish Day. Schulte gets out her pull-out mattress and lets everyone stay at her apartment.
“Everybody I bring here is just floored by how beautiful this is,” she said.
When Schulte came to Port, she made a few items her top priorities, among them establishing an online registration and pay feature.
“When I came here, everything was in paper and pencil,” she said.
Now Schulte can better track programs’ attendance and send emails to community members and text alerts to parents.
“That whole realm of communication has improved,” she said.
Schulte is working on Facebook and Instagram pages, and she uses Pinterest internally to generate new ideas among staff members.
She completed a summer brochure and could add winter and spring versions. Her two-page flyers don’t have enough space to squeeze on all the department’s activities, she said.
Schulte organized December’s inaugural Frosty Lighthouse 5 run/walk in two months, and has added Flick & Float — a movie for children while in the rec department’s pool. Schulte handed out glow sticks after it got dark.
“Details like that separate you from other programs,” she said.
Schulte said she is passionate about everyone learning how to swim and was pleased to see the Piranhas swim team numbers increase last summer.
“I think swim lessons are so crucial to kids,” she said. “They live right next to a lake.”
She likes working with local businesses on programming. Next month, the owners of the food truck Cupcake-A-Rhee will teach cupcake decorating.
Schulte brings ideas for new activities from her experience in other communities, as well as from the Wisconsin Park and Recreation Association. Schulte serves as chair-elect for the organization’s Aquatics Section Board.
Schulte said she listens to new ideas from Port residents themselves.
“I’m a public servant. I’m working for the community,” she said.
“My goal is everybody loves living here and visiting here,” she said.
While activities slow a little bit in winter, Schulte remains busy planning programs and staffing.
It didn’t take long for the new year to get busy. Last Wednesday was the first day parks could be reserved. Schulte had three people waiting at the door when she arrived at the office.
“I was hustling all day long,” she said.
The department has a small staff — three full-time members and a part-time assistant to start as early as Feb. 8.
“That’s why volunteers are so important to me. I can’t express that enough,” Schulte said. “I can’t do what I do without volunteers.”
Schulte is looking for a pool coordinator for summer. She managed the pool herself last year.
“It’s a demanding job,” she said.
Schulte said her degree in kinesiology, along with a minor in gerontology — the study of aging — fits her recreation director role well. While not having experience in sports like gymnastics, her background allows her to teach the sport. She has also done personal training and taken nutrition classes.
“I can bring more of that into programs,” she said.
Schulte also came to realize her passion fits her better than her initial plan to go into physical therapy.
“The reason why I love this position is it’s preventative health,” she said. “I kind of found my niche, finally.”
Schulte is on call seven days per week and has no problem logging long hours, but she looks forward to Port’s signature event each year. In addition to seeing her family, “the only day I get off is Fish Day,” she said.

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