Cassie Ofner, the District of Houston's new leisure services director, is settling into her position. (Angelique Houlihan photo)

New leisure services director settles into job

Cassie Ofner brings local knowledge and experience to position

The District of Houston’s new leisure services director comes to her job already familiar with the inner workings of the leisure services department and with a full knowledge of the area.

Cassie Ofner, who took over from Tasha Kelly in mid July, was raised in Houston and as a teen had a first job at the leisure services facility as a lifeguard and aqua fit instructor.

Finishing high school, Ofner then went to the Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo where she obtained two credentials — a diploma in recreation and sport management and a certificate in event management.

Choosing Nanaimo was a combination of two factors — her grandparents lived there so she was familiar with the city and the university offered her the education she wanted.

“So it was a little bit of both,” said Ofner of the decision to pursue her post secondary education on Vancouver Island.

And because of her local knowledge and connections, she was able to return to the leisure services department on a work term, a requirement of her post secondary program.

Ofner also spent time travelling through Great Britain and Europe.

After graduation, Ofner went to Creston in the Kootenays to work at its leisure services complex containing a pool, arena, curling rink and other recreational amenities on a maternity leave as an aquatic programmer from 2016 to 2017.

But Houston called her back.

“My boyfriend was still here. I grew up here so I know a lot of people here and I just like the small town feel. I just enjoy the pace of a small town,” said Ofner.

Just prior to her new job, Ofner worked at Pretivm’s Brucejack gold mine north of Stewart where she handled dispatching and logistics, arranging workers’ travel and other assignments.

And when the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, Ofner got first hand experience in dealing with that reality.

“Being in a remote location, especially with travel, a lot of what we did changed,” she noted.

“I would definitely call myself a people person,” Ofner added of dealing with various requests in that role.

And now in her leisure services position, Ofner has new opportunities beckoning, one of which is being in on the ground floor of the redevelopment potential for Jamie Baxter Park.

“It’s going to be very exciting to see how council works toward this,” she said of planning for what could be an overhaul of approximately $500,000.

And within the leisure services facility itself, a lifeguard development program put in place by Ofner’s predcessor is well underway.

“That’s very nice to see,” said Ofner. “The more lifeguards we can have, the more programs we can offer.”

That program is also a reminder of Ofner’s own career advancement.

“I know where it can take people,” she said.