As an 18-year-old highschool scholar on the verge of coming into the College of St. Thomas, Mike Hahm landed a metropolis rec heart job on St. Paul’s Rice Avenue, a mixed-income neighborhood the place his upbringing on the “far facet of Como Lake” generally felt extra like a legal responsibility than an asset.
The 12 months was 1986, and Hahm, the son of a St. Thomas math professor, got here sporting a peach-fuzz mustache, a heavyset construct and a willpower to win the respect of the neighborhood youth, one child at a time.
Quick ahead 35 years, and the “Miami Vice” mustache is gone, as are the additional kilos and Hahm’s whole head of hair, however his motto stays the identical. Hahm, 54, retired on Friday from metropolis make use of, capping a decades-long profession spent totally in St. Paul Parks and Recreation, together with the previous 14 years — and the higher park of a pandemic — as its director.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter will quickly start vetting candidates to steer one of many metropolis’s most public-facing departments, which employs 500 to almost 1,000 staff, relying upon the season, and operates on an annual price range of greater than $60 million, about two-thirds of it fueled by town’s common fund.
Till Hahm’s substitute is chosen, deputy director Tom Russell — a pal since their teen years — will oversee the division and the 13 million sq. ft of constructed area it manages.
WALKS IN THE PARK
Operating that area hasn’t all the time been straightforward, however Hahm famous that even the dangerous days concerned literal walks within the park.
Hahm — who routinely got here into work at 7 a.m., hours earlier than the primary rec heart opens, to get forward of the day’s travails — hasn’t introduced his subsequent steps past a common want to “proceed working with neighborhood, with a leaning towards serving to large concepts and massive tasks.”
All through his tenure, Hahm stated he’s seen loads of challenges, alternatives and general modifications, not the least of which has been the invasion of the dreaded emerald ash borer, an insect which has torn by means of metropolis ash timber and town forestry price range.
On brighter notes, his tenure coincided with the opening of the $11 million, seven-gorilla “Gorilla Forest” exhibit on the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in 2013, the development of CHS Area, the house of the minor league St. Paul Saints baseball group, in 2015 and, 4 years later, the opening of Allianz Area, the place the Minnesota United skilled soccer group hosts matches.
Then there have been the openings of the Highland and Como swimming pools, the Halfway Peace Park, the Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary, the Arlington Hills Group Heart — nearly too many tasks to recollect, all of them beneath the general public eye.
Facets of Hahm’s private life have additionally performed out beneath the general public eye. In 2014, constituents of Metropolis Council Member Amy Brendmoen had been stunned to study that she and Hahm — a mayoral appointee — had been relationship, on condition that the council is predicted to function a examine and stability on the authority of the mayor’s workplace.
The 2 later married, and Hahm turned stepfather to Brendmoen’s three youngsters. His subsequent cease? South Africa, to go to his stepson throughout a examine overseas semester in school.
AN ELABORATE REC CENTER SYSTEM
Hahm, who has overseen an elaborate rec heart system beset by staffing challenges and rising upkeep wants, nodded with satisfaction final week towards a wall of plaques outdoors his downtown workplace. The Belief for Public Land has lengthy ranked St. Paul as first, second or third finest within the nation amongst cities, as decided by park high quality and public entry.
It’s straightforward for longtime residents to neglect that along with internet hosting among the many most rec facilities and parks amenities per capita, the capital metropolis can boast that the majority residents stay inside strolling distance of municipal parklands.
For a metropolis its dimension, St. Paul stays one of many greenest communities in America.
EXCERPTS FROM A WORKDAY
Listed below are excerpts from the outgoing Parks and Rec director’s workday on Wednesday, Feb. 23, approaching his ultimate day in workplace.
7:45 am: Morning stroll round Como Lake with the spouse, Metropolis Council President Amy Brendmoen. pic.twitter.com/ZiehHq4DiH
— Frederick Melo, Reporter (@FrederickMelo) February 23, 2022
Hahm, who lives inside strolling distance of Como Lake, conducts a morning stroll across the picturesque lake together with his spouse, Metropolis Council President Amy Brendmoen. Their windy morning ritual requires slip-on ice cleats. Afterward, Brendmoen exhibits off their pandemic undertaking — a yard sauna Hahm largely constructed himself.
It’s a fast drive from dwelling to the Frogtown Group Heart at 230 Como Ave., one in every of a handful of rec facilities that had been fully rebuilt throughout his tenure.
At Frogtown Group Heart, Hahm attends his ultimate assembly with Parks and Rec service administrators. He’s knowledgeable that roadwork on Lexington Parkway will complicate entry to Crosby Farm Regional Park for 2 weeks, a 17-year-old tiger on the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory needed to be euthanized after the invention of a painful bone most cancers, and there have been 4 weddings — two units of two — held at Como on Tuesday, Feb. 22 (2-22-22).
Parks and Rec Director Mike Hahm says goodbye to the troops: pic.twitter.com/RV9DUnxccS
— Frederick Melo, Reporter (@FrederickMelo) February 23, 2022
Extra bulletins: Viking Cruises will start arriving at Lambert’s Touchdown on July 23. On the extra quick horizon is a potential St. Paul Public Faculties trainer’s strike, and Proper Monitor youth internship purposes have surpassed pre-pandemic ranges. Now it’s a query of matching some 900 children to employers. “It’s all people’s park system,” Hahm tells the service administrators. “And we rock each single day.”
Whereas driving to Arlington Hills Group Heart on Payne Avenue, Hahm makes a hands-free name to deputy mayor Kristin Beckmann, now deputy chief of employees to Gov. Tim Walz, asking her to place a fireplace beneath state administrators and get them to rent town’s Proper Monitor youth interns. “We now have the necessity,” he tells Beckmann, who says she’s keen to assist. “We now have the youngsters.”
Hahm meets with Ray Luster, who has spent 10 years working immediately with youth in varied rec facilities, most of them on the East Aspect, in addition to Rec Companies Supervisor Andy Rodriguez. In entrance of him, Luster is a proposal letter for a promotion that may place him within the Merriam Park or Summit-College neighborhoods, properly outdoors the East Aspect.
Hahm tells Luster that when he began on Rice Avenue 35 years in the past, he was a little bit of a fish out of water, however he took pains to construct belief. “Every part we do is public, and for the general public,” Hahm says. “Should you hold ‘that is for the general public’ on the entrance of your thoughts, you’re going to make the suitable resolution.”
Hahm provides that his former mentor Bob Piram used to say, “When doubtful, inform the reality. You then by no means have to determine what you stated. … Ask for recommendation, ask for assist.”
Driving towards the Como upkeep workplace, Hahm passes Wheelock Parkway, the place he notes an off-street path shall be linked to Lake Phalen later this 12 months, the following stage of town’s Grand Spherical path system. Whereas future enhancements to the system are possible, that lacking hyperlink will largely full the bike owner loop connecting Wheelock Parkway, Como Avenue, Raymond Avenue, Pelham Boulevard, Mississippi River Boulevard, Shepard Highway, Warner Highway, Johnson Parkway and Lake Phalen.
Hahm will get an government vp from Minnesota United on the cellphone and urges her to rent Proper Monitor interns, who will possible soar on the probability to affix a sports activities group in knowledgeable capability. “Our members will get an enormous cost of being affiliated with that,” he says. “The success of town depends on the success of the younger individuals.”
On the upkeep workplace, Hahm and his two deputy administrators host their first in-person working lunch with St. Paul Public Works Director Sean Kershaw and new St. Paul Regional Water Common Supervisor Patrick Shea. The division leaders notice a barrier to entry additional complicating hiring throughout a labor scarcity: an more and more massive share of younger, city candidates for internships and entry-level jobs don’t have driver’s licenses, that are wanted for a lot of positions.
After lunch, Hahm jumps on a convention name with Deputy Mayor Jaime Tincher and different division administrators to debate providers for the unsheltered homeless. There’s nonetheless just a few rooms open on the downtown Mary Corridor shelter, however the shelter on the former Bethesda Hospital is full. There’s concern about the place to relocate residents as soon as Ramsey County’s shelter lease at Bethesda expires. An occupied tent has emerged at Chestnut and Eagle streets. Elsewhere, an RV trailer parked off Payne Avenue has gained neighborhood notoriety as a “social gathering spot” for transients, say town officers.
Hahm hosts a hallway dialog with Jolene Santema, the brand new architect within the metropolis’s actual property providers design group. Afterward, in a sit-down assembly, Brad Meyer, Chief Monetary Officer for Parks and Rec, informs Hahm and deputy administrators Tom Russell and Erica Prosser that the division’s aquatics and golf providers loved heavy use final 12 months, leaving the Parks and Rec price range “within the black.” Nonetheless, a rising upkeep backlog continues for parks amenities citywide. Hahm predicts that with no important funding change, that may proceed to be the case.
The St. Paul Metropolis Council interrupts its regularly-scheduled assembly to play a video recognizing Hahm for his 35 years with town, with goodbye remarks from Mayor Melvin Carter and others.