Jon Carrigan, director of parks and recreation

Jon Carrigan steps outside his new office at the Commercial Building on the McLeod County Fairgrounds. He’ll also be spending quite a bit of time in the county’s six parks as he takes over as county director of parks and recreation.

If you spend any time in McLeod County's parks, or even at the Fairgrounds, you may recognize a familiar face. Or at least a familiar voice.

Many locals know the county's new parks and recreation manager Jon Carrigan from his past 32 years in radio, including two decades at KDUZ and KARP. The step into the great outdoors is a career change for the 55-year-old, but not a change to his lifestyle.

"I love the outdoors," he said. "I hunt, fish and camp in the summer. We spend a lot of time at the county parks and camping here in McLeod County. I spend a lot of time in the Fairgrounds also, with the McLeod County Fair and the coaching I continue to do at the youth level."

In fact, it was due to coaching that the position came to Carrigan's attention in the first place. For 20 years he's coached basketball alongside Al Koglin, the county's former parks and recreation manager.

"He told me he was thinking about retiring," Carrigan said. "As soon as I heard about the job opening it piqued my interest. The more I thought about it, the more I knew it would fit my lifestyle."

Carrigan started the job April 5. The following day, he told the McLeod County Board that ever since he applied for the job, it had been on his mind nonstop.

"I have some ideas rolling around my head," he told a reporter. "I don't want to throw them out yet. I need to see if they're feasible. But I do have some changes I'm looking at."

As a proponent of the outdoors, Carrigan wants more people outside using the county's park facilities. He hopes to find a way to extend that activity into the winter months when parks have typically been closed. For now he has a lot of catching up to do. Koglin retired at the beginning of the year, leaving the position open for a few months with other staff members carrying the extra load. Carrigan wants to help get everything back in order.

"That's going to take me probably until late spring, early summer," he surmised.

In the meantime he'll be learning the ropes. He described the parks and recreation manager position as a multi-pronged one, with work extending to grant writing, the county's trail system, and as the intermediary between the county and the University of Minnesota Extension Office and 4-H program. The McLeod County Fairgrounds especially attract a lot of activity.

"There is a lot going on year round," Carrigan said. "It's a busy place."

But what's jumped out at him the most is the warm welcome he's received from the county and from staff in his department.

"They've all been very supportive and have a lot of ideas," Carrigan said. "It seems they are one step ahead of me. By the time I think of something, someone appears in the door with the information I need."

He wants to hear from McLeod County residents as well, and hopes those with ideas will give him a call.

"We welcome public input," Carrigan said.