Recreation is Kent city worker’s full-time job

There is something for everyone in the city of Kent’s recreation program because of Tammy Heldt.

Tammy Heldt

There is something for everyone in the city of Kent’s recreation program because of Tammy Heldt.

As a parks program coordinator, Heldt lines up classes for kids and adults from ballet to cooking to triathlon training. And if residents want a class the city doesn’t offer, she will track down an instructor for whatever that activity might be.

“It’s a wide-open slate,” Heldt said in an interview Tuesday at the Kent Commons recreational facility on Fourth Avenue North and James Street. “We’ll program whatever class the community needs. New instructors and new classes keep it fresh.”

Recent additions to classes include triathlon training at Lake Meridian Park; a Little Athletes program to teach children ages 3 to 5 the basics of basketball, soccer and T-ball; and Kendo-Japanese swordsmanship, where students ages 15 and up use a wooden sword to learn the basics of Japanese sword techniques.

In the past couple of years, Heldt also has opened a small music room at Kent Commons for guitar and singing classes.

“She’s always looking for new classes to keep the community interested,” said Toni Wildoner, an administrative assistant to Heldt since Heldt joined the city nearly 10 years ago.

Besides the Kent Commons facility, Heldt uses classroom space at the Kent Senior Activity Center, Kent Memorial Park, Kent Resource Center and schools throughout the Kent School District. Kent Commons has seven classrooms and a full-size gym.

The job turned out to be a perfect fit for Heldt, 39, a former athlete at Puyallup High School and Green River Community College.

While playing basketball at Green River, Heldt heard from a former Green River player about a leisure-services program offered at Central Washington University.

“It was for people who want to program sports for others,” said Heldt, who went on to earn a degree from that CWU program.

Heldt worked for about five years in the Sumner-Bonney Lake Parks and Recreation program before she started as a program coordinator in Kent. Heldt replaced a longtime program coordinator, so it took a while for other employees to adjust to the new person in charge.

“She did things differently,” Wildoner said. “Our joke was that Elvis had left the building and now it was Tammy and Toni.”

Heldt lines up more than 50 part-time instructors each quarter to teach the classes. One dance instructor has worked with the city for nearly 20 years, but others are new each year. The city divides its recreation programs into summer, fall, winter and spring quarters.

That means as soon as Heldt gets one quarter of classes started, she begins to organize the next quarter’s classes.

“The classroom space (at Kent Commons) is my domain,” Heldt said. “We’re open Monday through Saturday and there’s always something going on.”

Outside of work, Heldt lives in Lake Tapps with her husband, David Heldt, and their 5-year-old son. David Heldt also works as a Kent parks program coordinator. He oversees park rentals, field rentals and adult softball. They have been married for six years and met at work.

“I remember David wearing out the carpet to my desk with his silly questions,” Wildoner said. “But they’ve become a wonderful couple together.”

Tammy Heldt enjoys playing basketball through the Bonney Lake parks department and plays softball with co-workers in the city of Kent program. She spends a lot of time with her son, who recently took up soccer and swimming.

Meanwhile, Heldt keeps an eye out for any new classes that other communities offer or that Kent residents of any age might want to take.

“It’s the diversity,” Heldt said of what she likes about her job. “I work with all age groups and classes. I’m in the recreational field and I’ve always had a love of sports.”

For more information on the city’s recreation programs, go to www.webreg.ci.kent.wa.us.

Contact Steve Hunter at 253-872-6600, ext. 5052 or shunter@reporternewspapers.com.

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