2017 Award Recipients

Annually, the South Dakota Parks and Recreation Association (SDPRA) recognizes organizations and individuals for their work and dedication to communities through parks and recreation. Awards are selected by past and present SDPRA Board members composed of parks and recreation professionals. The awards encourage dedication and support to the field of parks and recreation.

Congratulations to the 2017 SDPRA Award Winners!

  • Longevity Awards:  Dale Simpson, Lake Louise Recreation Area; Gene Morsching, Aberdeen Parks, Recreation and Forestry; and Mike Ullrich, Richmond Lake Recreation Area
  • Organization Commitment Citation:  Aberdeen Convention & Visitors Bureau Sports & Recreation Committee
  • Young Professional Award:  Katy Hiltunen, South Dakota State Parks, Pierre
  • Meritorious Professional Service:  Travis Lemer, Aberdeen Parks, Recreation and Forestry
  • Hall of Fame Award:  Susie Garry-Weber, Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation

Organization Commitment Citation
Aberdeen Convention & Visitors Bureau Sports & Recreation Committee

Aberdeen Convention & Visitors Bureau Sports & Recreation Committee

Aberdeen Convention & Visitors Bureau Sports & Recreation Committee

The Organization Commitment Citation Award was presented to the Aberdeen Convention & Visitors Bureau Sports & Recreation Committee. We all work with many organizations in our communities. The Aberdeen Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department has had a strong working relationship with the Aberdeen Convention and Visitors Bureau for many years. We are very grateful for this great relationship and assistance the Aberdeen CVB provides our department. A sub-committee of the CVB is the Sports and Recreation Committee. Their responsibilities have always been to bring sporting events to Aberdeen. They have been instrumental in bringing many events to Aberdeen—High School Activity Association State Tournaments and Activities being some of the main events. Several years ago the discussion came around to bidding to bring the State Senior Games to Aberdeen. A bid was presented and Aberdeen was awarded the 2015 and 2016 State Senior Games! Many of you have had the experience of working with the Senior Games and it is a major event. This State Senior Games has over 30 events and between 300 and 500 participants. It is a massive undertaking. It is because of the CVB Sports and Rec Committees leadership that we pulled this off. It takes commitment from many organizations with expertise in the sports offered as well as hundreds of volunteers and shared usage of many facilities. Some changes Aberdeen was able to implement as hosts of this event was the Advanced Registration of participants and on line registration opportunity. This may not sound like much to us, but it was a major hurdle to get approved by the state organization. Key people in the success of this event in Aberdeen were the Executive Director of the CVB, Casey Weismental and the Co-Chairs of the State Games: Mark Kolb and Owen Weller. It was because of their commitment, passion and dedication that this event was a success. It is because of this committee’s commitment and effort that Aberdeen was successful in hosting this event for 2 years and the reason we want to present them with the SDPRA Organization Citation Award.

Young Professional Award
Katy Hiltunen, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, Pierre

Katy Hiltunen (right)

Katy Hiltunen (right)

We are proud to present the Young Professional award to Katy Hiltunen from the Department of Game, Fish, and Parks in Pierre. Katy has worked at Lake Thompson Recreation Area, Custer State Park and West Whitlock in various capacities as a seasonal employee. She became a full time employee at the Pierre office a little over a year ago. Her career responsibilities include; monitoring the Point of Sale system for the Division of Parks and Recreation, auditing the yearly sales from that system, helping other park staff navigate the camping reservation system of the Division of Parks and Recreation, signage throughout the state parks, and working special events. According to Lynn Spomer, Visitor Services Director with the Division of Parks and Recreation, “Katy has enthusiastically performed all duties assigned to her by her supervisors. She was the Student Representative for SDPRA while she was in college. After she graduated and became a full time staff member of the Department of Game, Fish, and Parks, she was elected to the position of Member at Large for the SDPRA board of directors. She always provides input at board meetings and has great ideas.”

Meritorious Professional Service
Travis Lemer, Aberdeen Parks, Recreation and Forestry

Travis Lemer (left)

Travis Lemer (left)

Travis Lemer of the Aberdeen Parks, Recreation and Forestry department was presented the Meritorious Professional Service Award. Travis Lemer has been involved full time in the Parks and Recreation field for over 20 years; yet he has basically grown up to be in the Recreation field starting with his days as a youth at Mina Lake. Travis graduated from Northern State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Health and Physical Education in May 1997. His educational pursuits have included several NRPA Midwest Regional Conferences, the National Aquatics Conference, as well as many SDPRA State Conferences. In addition, Travis has certifications as a Red Cross Lifeguard and WSI Instructor and First Aid/ CPR Trainer; as well as a Certified Pool Operator and AFO. Travis has been an active member of the South Dakota Park and Recreation Association having served as President in 2014 and Past-President for 2 years. He was the recipient of the Young Professional Award in 2005. He has been active in the Activities Committee, Lifeguard Workshops and the Aquatics Branch.

Travis began his work in the Recreation Field during his college years working as a lifeguard and Pool Manager for the Aberdeen Parks and Recreation Department. After graduating from NSU, Travis’ first full time job was as the Aquatics/Program Director at the Unity Square Recreation Center in Milbank. He worked in this position from 1997 through1999. While at Unity Square he was in charge of all recreational programming including aquatics activities, youth programs and leagues, adult leagues, community activities and special events such as dances and tournaments. This served as a great training ground for Travis. In September 1999, Travis was hired as the Recreation/Aquatics Supervisor for the Aberdeen Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department. While in this position Travis has developed into a leader in the Aquatics field. He also has been extensively involved with the Red Cross, especially in the areas of First Aid/CPR, WSI and Lifeguard training. Travis played an important role in the planning and development of a new Family Aquatics Center in Aberdeen. He helped lead the way in the process that included a community needs assessment, evaluating current aquatic facilities, many public meetings and working with the pool consultants and community members in developing a plan for a 7.2 million dollar center that opened the summer 2007. Travis has oversaw the change from 2 traditional pools; to an Aquatic Center that attracts between 50 & 60,000 people! His management has been instrumental to the success of the Aquatic Center’s over its 10 years of existence. Over those years we have seen 95-98% cost recovery and 2 years of making a profit—which is extraordinary!

In addition, Travis has done a great job of supervising all aspects of the Aquatics program in Aberdeen. His strengths are hiring good people and meticulously training pool staff. He has a way of bringing out the best in staff and expecting the best from his staff. Travis also oversees the Open Gym Program, Adult Volleyball, Women’s Basketball, and a wide variety of special events, some of which are Haunted Forest, Pepsi Hot Shot, Family Free Throw Contest, just to name a few. Travis’ outgoing personality has helped him develop strong relationships with the many agencies, associations and groups he has to deal with. These relationships are critical to the success of the Department programs. Travis’ family includes his sons Parker and Hunter and his wife Dawn.

Hall of Fame Award
Susie Garry-Weber, Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation

Susie Garry Weber (middle)

Susie Garry Weber (middle)

SDPRA Hall of Fame Award is given to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the parks and recreation field in South Dakota based on reputable performance attested to personal record of accomplishments. The 2017 recipient is Susie Garry-Weber from Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation. Susie Garry Weber has served the parks and recreation field in the State of South Dakota for more than three decades. She served in this capacity for the first few years of her career as a Youth Director for the YWCA in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She went on to serve out the balance of her parks and recreation career as a Recreation Program Coordinator for Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation.

During her time with the City of Sioux Falls she served SDPRA President, Secretary/Treasurer and Publications Chair. She also served on the Executive Board for 10 years. During this same time she also held leadership roles as the Hershey Track and Field State Coordinator for 9 years and as its Assistant Director for Region IV. Susie deservedly won the SDPRA Young Professional Award in 1991 and received the Meritorious Professional Award in 1996. Susie had a passion for what she did that was beyond compare. Susie not only programmed Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation’s parks and community centers…she made the come alive! She worked tirelessly to make sure that everything was just perfect and at times she may have drove our operations team crazy, as she had to make sure that everything was just perfect. This is an example of her tireless dedication. She often could be seen in at each of her programs for the duration of the event to make sure the event went off without a hitch and each one of her team members was on point. Susie was also a presenter at various conferences and workshops including the NRPA Congress in 2015 where she presented the playground program we have offered in Sioux Falls for over 60 years. Susie was also innovative by bring programs such as the downtown pop up park to Downtown Sioux Falls where she made a dull, concrete plaza come to life with pops of color, music and fun during NRPA’s Parks and Recreation month in July of each year. When it comes to recreation programming, Susie Garry Weber was one of the best of the best. Susie broke the mold, as she was an example every new recreation staff member should aspire to emulate with her tireless energy, passion, care and professional service to our great city and state!