2021 Award Recipients

The South Dakota Parks and Recreation Association annually 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 2021 SDPRA award winners!

Individual Citation Award:  Jennifer Kirby, Advocate – Sioux Falls Parks & Recreation
Community Excellence Award:  Watertown JO Softball – David Ebbers & Margo Spiering
Young Professional Award:  Chad Quissell, Sioux Falls Parks & Recreation & Josh Cleveland, SD State Parks
Meritorious Professional Service Award:  Jean Pearson, Sioux Falls Parks & Recreation & Terry Kelly, Watertown Parks & Recreation
Hall of Fame Award:  Roger Adams, Watertown Parks & Recreation

Years of Service Recognition

Several parks and recreation professionals were recently recognized for their long-time service and contributions to the field by the South Dakota Parks and Recreation Association (SDPRA). Eight individuals were recognized, including two professionals with over 40 years of service each.

The association also acknowledged several individuals for their 20-year service:

  • John Bame, District Park Supervisor, Lake Herman State Park, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks
  • Jason Baumann, District Park Supervisor, Newton Hills State Park, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks
  • Jody Moats, Park Manager/Naturalist, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks
  • Matt Snyder, Regional Park Supervisor, Custer State Park, South Dakota State Parks
  • Travis Theilen, Division Staff Specialist – Planning and Development, Pierre, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks

The South Dakota Parks and Recreation Association announced the recipients via social media in lieu of their traditional in-person conference and banquet. Recipients will be recognized and celebrated in local presentations.

Organization Citation Award

Not Awarded in 2021.

Community Excellence Award

Watertown JO Softball, Watertown

The Watertown JO Softball under the direction of David Ebbers and Margo Spiering were recently named the recipient of the South Dakota Parks and Recreation Association’s Community Excellence Award. Watertown JO Softball has provided equipment, labor, facility upgrades included but not limited to lights, scoreboards, controllers, helmet boxes, bat racks, sunshades, concession equipment, batting boxes, fencing and so much more to Koch Complex and the softball community. The leadership of the JO softball is top notch through the efforts of Ebbers and Spiering. They fully support Parks & Recreation and want to help, assist, or contribute any way they can to make the relationship stronger each year. They assist in setting facility rules, ordinances and follow through on those at the facility.  Their significant contributions both monetarily as well as commitment of their time continue to offer a long-standing program that serves over 50 plus teams each year. The contributions to the facility speak for themselves.

Individual Citation Award

Jennifer Kirby

Jennifer Kirby is the 2021 recipient of this award. Jennifer has been instrumental in leading two major parks and recreation initiatives over the last decade. She served as the first President of the Friends of Levitt Shell Sioux Falls, the organization that partners with the National Levitt Foundation and the City of Sioux Falls Parks & Recreation to bring the Levitt Shell to Sioux Falls.  Kirby recruited and organized this non-profit organization that provides 50 free professional performances to the Sioux Falls community FREE OF CHARGE every summer. Kirby has also been instrumental in standing up our first parks and recreation foundation in Sioux Falls. She has been the driving force with this initiative by once again recruiting and organizing a group of individuals to serve on the city’s first park foundation. Kirby has not only been a driving force with these two initiatives she has been a major financial contributor and fund raiser for both initiatives.  Kirby has the capacity to bring people together for a common cause and set the organization up for success long term. Kirby’s efforts have led to transformative changes to the parks and recreation department that will live on for generations. Jennifer and her husband Joe have been so generous towards these parks and recreation initiatives along with many, many other good causes in the Sioux Falls community for many years.  “Without Kirby’s drive and passion with these initiatives, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” says Sioux Falls Parks & Recreation Director Don Kearney, “and I cannot think of a more deserving individual.

Young Professional Award

Josh Cleveland

Cleveland is currently the district park supervisor for the Game, Fish and Parks in Watertown, SD.  Cleveland has been with the department for 9 years, 7 of those as a permanent employee. He’s also been a member of SDPRA for 8 years.  Cleveland has also been on the SDPRA executive board for the last 4 years as the Secretary/Treasurer.  He is also on the conference planning committee this year. His work as treasurer has cleaned up and organized the budget and conference budget, as well as running transactions and balancing the budget for the association and helping with conference budgets and transactions since he was installed on the board.

Cleveland rose from an Assistant Park Manager, to Park Manager, to District Supervisor in less than a three-year time span.  In his time with the department, he has attended many quality trainings including the National Association of State Park Directors Two-year Leadership School in West Virginia, and the Game, Fish and Parks Leadership Development Program which has helped shape and refine his leadership abilities.  The parks he supervises, Pelican Lake, Sandy Shore, Lake Cochrane, and Hartford Beach, have all seen major facelifts from capital development projects he’s been involved with and changes to their in-house maintenance programs. These changes have helped significantly change the local community’s view of Pelican Lake specifically. The park went from being relatively unknown and thought of as “dirty” in relation to the lake, and now it is a top 5 visited and camped at park in the northeast region in a few short years.  Cleveland has also created 4 internships in his park district since he arrived in Watertown to help teach our future employees and leaders. A number of these interns now have full-time positions with GFP and other outdoor-related organizations in South Dakota.

Young Professional Award

Chad Quissell

Chad Quissell demonstrates his passion for the field by working tirelessly to develop and grow those around him especially the seasonal staff he oversees. Quissell has quickly become instrumental in SDPRA by accepting a position as Community Recreation Centers Branch which assists in providing information to community recreation centers throughout the state. He actively engages the membership in discussion on recreation centers and trends including pricing, cost recovery, safety initiatives, and programming to name a few. In serving in this capacity, the activities committee chair was vacant, so Quissell offered to step in and found a creative way to connect individuals across the state. We can all agree feeling a bit isolated from others at some point last spring and fall, but Quissell was innovative in utilizing bi-weekly Zoom meetings as a platform to keep agencies connected as well as share COVID protocols, updates, and wins.  At the local level, Quissell was heavily involved in developing safe strategies to safely reopen 5 community centers across the city during COVID.   During COVID, this allowed for safe recreational play.  He was instrumental in the implementation of Hydrant Parties and coordinating with other city departments to reach out to our community and then shared this program and assisted other SD communities to make this event happen in their hometown.

Quissell was selected to serve on the first City of Sioux Falls Onward class. Onward is a transformational leadership development program created in partnership with the University of South Dakota Beacom School of Business. The goal of the program is to build on one’s previous leadership experiences and development, and to share a learning environment with your fellow Onward classmates to grow our culture in support of Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken’s “One Sioux Falls” vision. Key components of the Onward program include personal leadership reflection exercises, engaging in classroom learning, building a relationship with a mentor, and working as a team on a special project. Quissell and his project team are now seeing the fruits of their labor with their project implementation.  As our internal RecTrac Lead, Quissell looks for way to better the overall usage and experience both internally and externally.

Quissell serves on various committees throughout the City of Sioux Falls including the City Center Environment Committee. This committee serves to better the overall environment for multiple departments now sharing spaces to increase relationship building, better services to our taxpayers as well as provide collaborative space for innovation.  Quissell is recognized for his professionalism and was asked to lead a roundtable at this year’s SDPRA conference.  Quissell has a passion for recreation and developing strong relationships locally and across the state to enhance the experiences delivered to those who enjoy our parks and programs.

Meritorious Professional Service Award

Jean Pearson

Jean Pearson began her career as a seasonal outdoor pool manager with the Sioux Falls Parks & Recreation department over 20 years ago.  She was given the unique opportunity to leave her high school teaching and coaching career in 2011 to work full time as the Aquatics Program Coordinator for the city.  Pearson is dedicated, compassionate, and enthusiastic; the kind of person that you want to work alongside of every day.  She puts the thoughts of others before her own.  Her knowledge and passion for aquatics go unmatched.  Pearson invests time in training, teaching, coaching and guiding young people to be the best lifeguards – and people – for the city.  The safety of pool users is her top priority.  Pearson has been recognized for her emergency procedure trainings at the aquatic facilities which earned her the annual City of Sioux Falls Safety Award.  Not only does Pearson oversee and staff 6 outdoor facilities, she also is the “face” of the Midco Aquatic Center.  She organizes swim meets, swim lessons, events and programming at Midco.  This is not an easy task, but she does it with ease and grace.  Aquatics aside, Pearson is also a member of the SF Parks & Recreation Safety Team, involved on the SDPRA Board, and well as participating in the Mayor’s Onward program to develop better leaders across the City.  Pearson also helps with events within the department and helps organize the annual Trunk or Treat event every October.  Pearson is viewed as a huge asset to the department dealing with not only the successes but also the struggles of aquatic facilities.  Pearson’s significant contributions to the department while always maintaining a positive attitude and keeping those around her motivated results in a successful aquatics program for the region.

Meritorious Professional Service Award

Terry Kelly

Kelly is the current director for Watertown Parks and Recreation and has shown great leadership in the field by working with several groups, associations while heading a vast majority of projects, plans and developments within the Community of Watertown. His passion and desire to not only grow but continue to develop, improve, and manage the department makes him a very strong and deserving candidate for this Professional Service award. From the start of his career until now, Kelly has received numerous awards and recognition for his leadership and work which is a carryover of his passion.  Kelly is very knowledgeable, a true mentor to his staff.  He has a wide range of skills in resolving conflicts, seeing projects unfold before they even start.  Over the years, Kelly has done numerous hours of research to make Parks & Recreation the best it can be.  Overseeing 11 different divisions and making sure each one gets improved or better each budget year is the way he made the department and community stronger. Working and making a difference with the school, associations, user groups, and the whole community is the expectation he puts on himself to bring to work each day.

Hall of Fame Recognition

Roger Adams

Roger began his career in the field of Parks and Recreation as a seasonal employee in 1974, he was hired on full time for the City of Watertown Parks and Recreation Department after attending SDSU in 1977. He held positions of City Park Manager, City Forester, Parks and Forestry Superintendent and Director; all for the City of Watertown. He achieved the position of Director in 1979 and held the position until his retirement in 2011.

Adams was heavily involved with multiple athletic associations working directly with them for the betterment of their programs and facilities. Adams also was strongly involved with many service organizations in securing funding and naming of parks and green spaces. Adams mentored multiple staff over his career, and many became leaders themselves within other communities and departments within the SDPRA.

Adams was at the forefront of facility development. Over his 3 decades plus career, he played a vital role in master minding a major portion of quality-of-life infrastructure in Watertown. He became a dictionary of information for peers to rely on for developing, planning and implementation of projects. Still to this day, the Watertown staff considers him and fully utilizes him as a “Voluntary” Consultant. Through his career Adams was most proud of the following projects he made a reality in Watertown.

Although there are many smaller just as important projects, here is a list of some accomplishments:
Development of over 16 Neighborhood and Development Parks:
– Construction of ANZA Soccer Complex
– Achieving AZA accreditation for Bramble Park Zoo
– Construction of the Discovery Center and Terry Redlin Environmental Center at Bramble Park Zoo
– Acquisition of land for the expansion of the Zoo, the footprint of the Family Barn and many more children zoo exhibits
– 9-hole addition to the Municipal Golf Course, creating only one of two 27-hole courses in the state
– Dog Park
– Construction of the Watertown Family Aquatic Center and instrumental in building one of the first indoor ice arenas
– Slumberland Disc Golf Course
– Three field addition to Koch Complex
– Designing and construction of a city-wide recreational trail system that encompasses nearly 38 miles
– Construction of the Skate Park
– City Park Campground expansion

Adams was instrumental and an integral part in the growth of the South Dakota Parks and Recreation Association. Taking an opportunity to read the history of the organization, Adams’ name appears often. He was one of the first students in 1973 to help students become and have a voice in our association.
In 1986 Adams received the Meritorious Professional Award.  Adams also served as the Association President during his tenure.  Adams also spearheaded the development and initial funding of the “Doc” Nordstrom scholarship in 1997 and was elected to the South Dakota Municipal League Hall of Fame in 2010.