‘I want to be a part of that team’

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, March 12, 2024

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Jason Sehon takes over the reins of Parks and Rec


There were a lot of things that stood out about Austin to Jason Sehon when he was considering taking the position of Parks, Recreation and Forestry director.

Whether it was expanded opportunities to do more things in and around Austin or simply the community itself, but it was one thing that really stood out in the end for Sehon.

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“I’m going to say the people,” Sehon said. “Through the different groups I’ve been involved in and have met, I just really like the people and the people really have a passion about Austin.”

Sehon, who has an extensive history of parks and recreation management as well as a degree in parks and recreation administration, interviewed for the position in November of last year, and he came away with a distinct feeling this was where he needed to be.

Especially after meeting the department he would come to manage.

“I remember walking away from that thinking, ‘I want to be a part of that team,’” Sehon said.

Sehon comes to Austin by way of the east coast, but most recently Rawlins, Wyoming where he served as Parks and Recreation director for three years.

Going back further, Sehon served as a parks and rec supervisor for the Chico, California area before moving to McKinleyville, California.

After a diversion into the private sector as operations manager for Thomas Home Center, Sehon jumped back into the world of parks and recreation in Rawlins.

“My family was like, ‘we can see it in your eyes dad. You need to get back into recreation and parks,’” Sehon said. “‘That’s where your heart is.’”

That connection itself goes back to his school days where he’s always found work outdoors. His first real job in life was with the city of Redding, California working with the parks and recreation department.

It was there, Sehon said, that staff and the director took him under their wing and that the position developed into a full-time position.

Eventually, he went to college with an eye to possibly becoming a teacher, but it wasn’t until he took an outdoor recreation class that his interest in parks and recreation really piqued.

“I switched gears and did much better in school because I was focused on a certain major,” Sehon recalled.

An internship at Fort Wainwright Army Base in Fairbanks, Alaska helped solidify the decision.

“I’ve always had a passion for all things Parks and Recreation,” Sehon said. “I think one of my favorite things is when you’re developing a new program or designating a new park, or improving a park. It’s the community involvement that’s important to me and I love the process.”

Sehon said he’s hit the ground running when it comes to getting brought up to speed with things in Austin and admits he’s still going through files to further familiarize himself with everything that is in the community,

However, there have been some early things that have come to the forefront, including establishing goals, both as a department and for staff, and also working to further refine the department’s master plan.

“My goals right now are still simple,” he said. “I’m still learning the community, learning from our staff. We’ve got a really good staff here and I feel very lucky to be able to work with them.”

However, one thing that quickly worked it’s way to the forefront is the mammoth task of confronting the Emerald Ash Borer and its presence in the community.

Already, the department is headlong into its efforts to cut into the city’s large number of affected ash trees as well as working to find ways to begin treating those trees that the department feels can be save.

However, with 20% of the trees in Austin being ash trees, Sehon recognizes the task remains daunting and will have a lasting impact on Austin’s landscape. At the same time the team is looking ahead at how many it can save at the same time.

“The first thing we did as a forestry team, which we recently developed, is identify which trees we believe are treatable,” Sehon said.

That will require community buy-in as the department will seek to get information out to property owners with ash trees in an effort to further educate, a process that will include public meetings as part of future plans.

However, there is a balance to all of this as well, as Sehon and the department will look to not only continue taking trees down and trying to save others while maintaining maintenance for all of the other trees at the same time.

The plan will also call for replanting, but with current drought conditions and the amount of watering that will need to be done to nurture the growth of the new trees, resources would be strained.

“Once we get around that curve our focus will be 100% on replanting,” Sehon said. “Let’s get these trees back to where they need to be.”

There will certainly be more challenges on the horizon and Sehon said that he is looking forward to meeting those, as well as fostering all the positive things he sees Austin has to offer.

“I’m very excited to be here,” he said. “I felt very welcomed and I appreciate that. Being a part of different groups and committees and going to events and meeting new people — I’m just more and more encouraged that my family made the right decision to move here.”