Baltimore resident Walter Lenckos will be making the move to Porter County
later this month to take the reigns as county parks superintendent.
The Porter County Parks and Recreation board on Thursday unanimously
accepted a motion made by board member Annetta Jones to award Lenckos the
position. The vote was 5-0. Board member Dave Canright was absent from the
Through a computer video screen, Lenckos accepted the position and thanked
the board and the staff for their efforts during the hiring process.
“I’m very eager to meet as many people as possible and share in the vision
of the Porter County Parks Department,” Lenckos told those sitting in the
audience at the Porter County Administration Building.
Park board president Rich Hudson said it has been nearly six months since
the board started to seek a successor for outgoing parks superintendent Ed
Melendez who officially resigned on Dec. 31 last year. The board hired
Valparaiso Redevelopment Commission Direc-tor Stu Sommers as a human
resource consultant to facilitate the board in the hiring process.
The board was able to narrow down a selection of 45 applicants to four
candidates for formal interviews. Hudson and Jones said after the meeting it
was Lenckos’ positive thinking and fearless attitude towards facing
challenges that gave him the edge over the other candidates.
“He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty,” Jones said. She also attributed
Lenckos’ strong communication skills.
Hudson said he is excited about Lenckos’ supervisory experience in
management and fundraising which were some of the qualities the board was
“We believe the new superintendent will be able to take the park system into
the 21st century,” said Hudson.
Lenckos will receive the same salary and benefits as Melendez, Hudson said.
In compensation for his efforts, Lenckos will be paid $46,900 annually and
will be living at the Superintendent’s House at Sunset Hill Farm County
Lenckos will be on hand from May 18-May 20 and then again on May 25-May 27
to get further acquainted with parks staff and community members.
Park board member Ruth Jarnecke stood up to thank Parks Manager Matt Howton
and Parks Supervisor Mike Howton for their collaboration as co-interim
superintendents during the “smooth transition,” as she called it, giving way
to a standing ovation for the Howtons.
Jarnecke said the board is planning to honor the two for their efforts at a
special ceremony in the upcoming weeks.
In addition to hiring a superintendent, the parks also hired William Ploehn
as a park naturalist. Ploehn will be filling the shoes of Eric Dlutkowski
who resigned in March. Ploehn will assist in summer camp activities and the
Parks-to-School program with naturalist Jim Mannel.
Superintendent Seeks Community Interaction
During the meeting, Lenckos told the Chesterton Tribune one big
attraction of the superintendent’s job was working with community members of
Porter County. An Illinois native, he said looks forward to moving back to
Lenckos holds a Master of Science in Recreation Administra-tion from Aurora
University. He started out working at two YMCAs from 2001 to 2003, one at
George Williams College in Williams Bay, Wis. and another in Boulder
Most recently, Lenckos worked as a program director for Outward Bound in
Baltimore, the world’s largest provider of adventure and experiential
programs that uses outdoor adventures to build confidence leadership skills.
The experience gave Lenckos the abilities to manage staff, develop budgets
and fundraising, and also develop partnerships throughout the community.
Some of Lenckos key goals he mentioned are continuing work laid out by the
parks’ master plan, connecting different trails and waterways, developing
the Kankakee trails, and enriching the county’s relationship with the
National Park Service. He is also interested in developing a new website for
the department that will allow web users to interact with park staff.
As for the parks themselves, Lenckos said he wishes to continue efforts on
opening Brincka-Cross Park in Furnessville for the public and continue the
progress at Sunset Hill Farm by increasing staff members and programs. He
will also meet with staff and partners to see what their vision is for the
Brookdale Park project, the county’s first active park which will be located
in Liberty Twp.
“We need a sustainable plan that answers the community’s needs and allows us
to provide the needed level of service,” he said.
With the parks being in a countywide budget crunch, Lenckos hopes to develop
relationships with local organizations that support the parks’ goals. He
also wants to begin a “robust” volunteer program to keep costs down and make
the parks an attractive investment for private donors.
“From my experience, if you provide a valuable product or service to the
community, the community will support you,” he said.
Lenckos said the parks department has a greatly dedicated group of staff
members and will work closely with them collaboratively to accomplish their
Lenckos said he is looking forward to the new chapter in his life. He and
his wife Stephanie just became proud parents of newborn twin girls last
Land Acquisition and Development Committee Chair Richard Maxey said he is
giving up efforts to acquire the Department of Natural Resources matching
grant for the Brookdale Park project due to lack of time. The deadline for
that grant is June 1, Maxey said, and they have not been able to render the
survey and master plan information required for the grant application.
The committee will try for the grant next year, Maxey said. They will also
be issuing a Request for Proposal for firms interested in doing the master
Porter County Redevelopment Advisory Committee Director John Shepherd has
joined the committee to help find ways to fund the development. The
committee has partnered with local sports groups that have expressed
interest in helping the parks department maintain the proposed soccer and
softball fields for the park.
The board also approved a $4,800 bid for soil testing and aeration on the
land that will be used for the Brookdale Park. The bid from Soil Solutions
was voted 4-1 with park board member Rebecca Tommerlin voting no.