Although he’s lived in the Chicago area most of his life, it’s been an East Tennessee homecoming for Farragut’s new Parks & Recreation director Ron Oestreich, who moved to his grandparents’ farm in the Powell community recently as he assumed his new role.
Oestreich came to Farragut from Bolingbrook Park District in Bolingbrook, Illinois, where he had worked for 27 years, most recently as its executive director. In Farragut, he is replacing long-time Parks & Rec director Sue Stuhl, who retired in January. His first official day was Monday, Feb. 13.
He has been settling in, attending Town meetings and functions as he gets to know his new staff and community.
“Everyone has been very nice and welcoming, and I’m glad to be here,” Oestriech said.
Relocating to East Tennessee — where the new Parks & Rec director had spent two weeks every summer as a child —had been the plan for Oestreich and his wife, Christy, for some time, he said.
“My new job just made it happen a little quicker than we anticipated,” he added, noting Christy and the couple’s youngest child, daughter Delanie, remain in Bolingbrook until Delaine graduates from high school later this year.
“I miss them, and will be glad when they are here, but it’s been a good opportunity for me to get to know the community,” he said.
Parks in some form or fashion, have been Oestreich’s passion since as an 8-year-old, he was paid a dollar an hour to sweep the midway at an amusement park his father purchased, Santa’s Village in Illinois.
He worked there up through and after high school, and it helped cement his desire to follow a path in recreational administration in college.
Oestreich’s first job after graduating was with Skokie Park District before going to Bolingbrook, where he ultimately spent 27 years.
There, he began by overseeing the aquatics aspect of the parks and also managed the fitness and golf programs. He was named executive director in 2012, and at the time of his leaving managed 52 parks along with a staff of 63 full-timers and 300 part timers.
“It was a big operation, with a $21 million budget,” Oestreich said, noting it also came with “an incredible amount of stress.
“To manage all of that, I had a wonderful team,” he added. “We had a lot of difficult challenges, as everyone did, especially during COVID, but we managed.
“I enjoyed what I did at Bolingbrook and I love parks and recreation. Bringing joy to people is a huge passion of mine.”
He is a life-long UT Vols sports fan, and also enjoys NASCAR racing, fishing and spending time with his family, which includes four children along with his extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins he has been able to re-acquaint with since relocating.
In addition to having ties to the area previously, the Oestreich’s eldest son also lived in Knoxville, and being closer to him was a draw as well.
“So far, the (Farragut Parks program) is different, but in a good way,” Oestreich said. “Each place is different, each job is different. But I am honored to be here and excited about the future.”