SIOUX CITY | The leader of Woodbury County's parks system is retiring at the end of 2017, ending a four-decade career with the county.
Rick Schneider, who will turn 65 in August, has been director of the Woodbury County Conservation Board since April 1975. He briefly talked about his approaching retirement in December with the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors at its meeting last week.
"It will be 42 years in a couple of weeks," Schneider said in a Journal interview. "It has been long enough. It has been a great career, a great job."
It was Schneider's first job after graduating from South Dakota State University. He had thought of steering towards a city recreation department and had an internship at Wheat Ridge, Colorado, a suburb of Denver.
A native of Huron, South Dakota, Schneider interviewed for Iowa county parks jobs also in Montgomery and Lyon counties. He is glad the Woodbury County hiring went his way.
"It was a unique opportunity for me, very fortunate," Schneider said.
Schneider said the county has great public hunting areas, campgrounds, swimming pits, hiking areas and places to photograph birds. The county conservation board oversees 16 outdoor options, including wildlife areas, nature preserves and parks such as Little Sioux Park south of Correctionville, Southwood Conservation Area near Smithland, and Brown's Lake-Bigelow Park and Snyder Bend Park, both near Salix.
Schneider said many of the areas were in infancy when he arrived. The parks in the last 10 years have been adding cabins.
"We've come a long way and provided a wide variety of recreation activities," he said.
Schneider currently oversees a staff of 17 employees, plus many more seasonal workers. He said his director job has been enjoyable, given the high degree of cooperation from employees, the county Conservation Board members and the county supervisors, who provide money for the parks budget annually.
Larry Clausen, of Sioux City, served as a Woodbury County Supervisor from 1983 through 2016, a long time, but still shorter than Schneider's tenure.
Clausen said Schneider performed well with the challenging aspects of the job, including the expansion of services.
"You couldn't ask for a better person. He's done an excellent job," Clausen said.
"The parks in Woodbury County are second to none in the state."