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Evansville
Sunday, October 2, 2022

Sacred Ground

A Catholic priest, hospice chaplain, community corrections director, and parks and recreation executive director — these careers may seem quite different on the surface, but Brian Holtz sees them as connected to one recurring theme in his life.

“Through my entire career, I looked for positions that were the model of servant leadership,” says Holtz.

In March 2016, Mayor Lloyd Winnecke appointed Holtz executive director of the City of Evansville’s Department of Parks and Recreation to fill the vacancy created by retirement. Holtz previously was the department’s deputy director in charge of partnerships and funding since 2013.

Prior to that, he had been a priest at both Resurrection Catholic Church on the West Side and Holy Rosary Catholic Church on the East Side before leaving the priesthood. He then served as hospice chaplain for Visiting Nurse Association and executive director of the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office community corrections program, in which Holtz mentored non-violent offenders.

Now, Holtz manages the team of 50 full-time and more than 300 seasonal employees to maintain 65 parks, 21 recreational facilities, and more than 2,500 acres of land throughout Evansville and Vanderburgh County. He encourages employees to think outside the box to find unique solutions to budget restrictions.

“My job is to be a cheerleader, to manage and juggle a $10-million-a-year budget,” says Holtz, a 1987 Memorial High School graduate.

The job requires him to listen to the community, have an open mind to the suggestions made, and prioritize concerns.

“I think it takes a person who is a mediator to handle that,” he says. “To be able to decipher what needs attention and what can wait until the next day.”

The youngest of nine children and a lifelong Evansville resident, Holtz recalls growing up in Jimtown — a blue-collar neighborhood north of the Lloyd Expressway bordered by Garvin Street — and spending sunrise to sunset away from the house.

“We felt like somebody when we could ride our bikes from our house to Garvin Park,” he recalls.

He feels immense pride that his job allows him to contribute to the well-being of others who live here.

“Getting up every morning and wanting to go to work is a great feeling,” he says, adding he understands the political nature of the position means he could be out of a job after the next election. “I think my responsibility is do what I can with the time that I have. I can control me and that’s it. I don’t live in that fear. I’m appreciative Mayor Lloyd Winnecke gave me the opportunity to lead this department.”

For more information about the City of Evansville’s Department of Parks and Recreation, call 812-435-6141 or visit evansville.in.gov/index.aspx?page=48.

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