When Kevin House was in high school, he had not yet thought about pursuing a career in parks and recreation. His only goal was not to work in construction.
He re-examined that goal, however, when he and his wife, at the age of 18, had twin girls, and he needed a job to support them.
“I graduated from Jacksonville High School in 1993, then went to work,” House said.
He said his father owned a construction company, House’s Construction, and House went to work for him after he graduated from high school.
“We did mostly residential construction,” said House, 38. “I did enjoy parts of [construction], but it’s a hot job when it’s hot outside or cold when it’s cold outside. It’s hard work.”
While he was working in construction, House’s daughters started playing softball in Jacksonville at age 4, and he subsequently started coaching them in their sport of choice.
“[Coaching] led me to become a part of the volunteer board of the Jacksonville Softball Association,” House said.
In 2009, the city of Jacksonville took over the youth softball league, and House was looking for a way to stay involved.
“I came on as the sports coordinator for about a year,” House said.
This title gave House his first taste of what it would be like to have a career in parks and recreation.
As sports coordinator, House was in charge of all of the sporting leagues in the city. He also found himself playing many of the sports that he oversaw.
“I played baseball mainly, and slow-pitch softball as I got older,” he said.
After working as the sports coordinator, he became the maintenance supervisor for the city of Jacksonville in February 2010.
“I was the head of all maintenance in the parks. I had a staff of about 10 guys,” House said.
He was in charge of getting baseball and softball fields mowed and grounds maintained so the fields were always ready for Little Leaguers.
“Then in June 2011, they asked me to become the assistant director of parks and recreation,” House said.
While he was assistant director, he was still in charge of some aspects of maintenance.
Then on May 15, House was promoted to director of Jacksonville Parks and Recreation, replacing Kristen Kennen.
“[Jacksonville] is home, and I really want people to see the city in the light I see it,” House said. “There are a lot of good people and things here.”
The people who live in Jacksonville have kept House here all these years.
“The people are so friendly,” he said. “The town has such a diverse group of people because of the Air Force base.”
As a native of Jacksonville, House said he can’t imagine raising his children anywhere but his hometown.
“I wouldn’t have wanted my kids to grow up anywhere else,” he said.
As director of Parks and Recreation, House said, he would like to see some changes in the community he adores. One of the projects he has in the works is a Miracle League field for disabled children.
The Miracle League is designed to give children, young adults and adults with special needs the opportunity to play baseball.
While his daughters were playing softball, House said, he saw a Miracle League field in action.
“The first time I saw a [Miracle League field] was while I was at the United States Fast Pitch Association World Series in Panama City Beach,” House said.
“[A Miracle League field] would be very beneficial to our community, and it’s touching to see it in use.”
House said the community would benefit from this feature because of Pathfinder Inc., a facility in Jacksonville that provides programs and services for individuals with developmental disabilities and behavioral health needs.
He said he hopes one of these fields will be in place and functional in the city by the time he leaves Jacksonville Parks and Recreation.
Another of House’s goals is to raise awareness of the 14 parks he is in charge of in Jacksonville.
In addition to the parks, House is in charge of the community center, the Martin Street Youth Center, the Splash Zone, the upcoming shooting complex and the farmers market in Jacksonville.
Right now, House said, he is working on the Park of the Month program.
“A lot of our citizens didn’t know the number of parks we have,” he said.
House said that on the second Saturday of each month, Parks and Recreation employees go to a different park and provide free food and drinks to the park’s visitors.
In addition to the Park of the Month program, House has more ideas for ways the city of Jacksonville could improve.
“I would like to expand our indoor and outdoor aquatic facilities,” he said.
Starting with these, he would like to continue to expand the number and types of programs the Jacksonville Community Center has to offer, though the programs are already quite diverse.
“We have something for everyone,” House said. “We’ve got something for all of our citizens to do.”
He said he couldn’t have done anything in the department without the staff he has in Jacksonville.
“They’ve really stepped up, and they’re open to change,” he said. “They’ve [been interested] in where I see Jacksonville Parks and Recreation going.
“I just want to let the city of Jacksonville know what we have to offer,” House said.
Though he didn’t begin his working career with the intention of going into parks and recreation, House said he has a sincere interest in his career that he has already found a devotion for.
“I want to provide the best parks and services that I can for the city,” he said.
More information about Jacksonville Parks and Recreation is available at www.cityofjacksonville.net.