As he looks back on his almost 30-year career as Meeteetse’s recreation director, John Fernandez is thankful.
Fernandez’s first day of work was in July 1990. He applied for the job when his parents retired from ranching.
“I had to find another job,” he said. “I was actually the second choice but the other person passed it up.”
He was soon immersed in his new role. The mission of the recreation district is to create opportunities for residents of all ages. This pursuit led to a variety of successful projects.
One effort the Meeteetse Rec Center undertook was to start weekly bus trips from Meeteetse to Cody. The program was centered on helping seniors get to the services, appointments and shopping they needed.
Another high point was the construction of the overnight cabin at the Wood River Valley Ski Park. The park is a cross-country skiing trail network maintained by the recreation district. Once it was complete, journals were left for visitors to write down their experiences if they wished. The memories that people recorded were indicator enough that the project was worth it.
He also worked extensively with the community pool and fitness center facilities. Still, he says that the district’s greatest asset isn’t a building.
“Our facility is the outdoors,” he said.
Fernandez expressed gratitude to the staff he worked with during his tenure. He also thanked the board of directors.
“There wasn’t a morning I didn’t look forward to getting up and going to work,” he said.
Still, it wasn’t just the job. There was a deeper connection.
“My family came from Mexico in 1949,” he said. “Meeteetse gave them an opportunity, so that was always in the back of my mind. I wanted to pay the community back.”
Fernandez also thinks very highly of his successor, Brodie Bennett, who stepped into the role after his departure.
Growing up in Meeteetse, Bennett knew Fernandez for years, even playing for the high school basketball team he coached. As she began to look at career paths, she knew she wanted to one day have his job. It was her dream, and now she has realized it.
“He’s created one of the most reputable organizations in town,” Bennett said “I’ve got some big shoes to fill.”