Weather Forecast


New recreation specialist takes post with city

A spark of passion for the outdoors first ignited in Katie Kaufman as a child during fishing and camping trips with her dad.

Today, that passion for nature has brought Kaufman to the Brainerd Parks and Recreation Department, where she started last week as the new recreation specialist.

Kaufman replaces Bonnie Muzik, who recently retired after 33 years with the city.

Kaufman was taught at a young age to appreciate both the land and sports. It’s what helped her pick a career in parks and recreation.

“I’m able to have a career that makes me happy and lets me do good for the community and for people,” she said. “It helps me fulfill my life’s mission statement: to just make people happy.”

Moving north has long been a goal for the Maple Grove native.

“I’ve always wanted to live the simple life. I want to be in a laid-back community where people believe in you,” she said.

In her first year in the position with the Brainerd Parks and Recreation Department, Kaufman wants to learn the ropes of the department. Next year, she’ll evaluate each program and make some tweaks. By her third year, she’ll start adding new programs, with community feedback and input.

Don’t let Kaufman’s age fool you. She’s fresh out of college, but comes with a few years worth of internships at parks and recreation offices in Rogers, Minn. and Onalaska, Wis.

Her drive is evident for Brainerd Parks and Recreation Director Tony Sailer.

“We found a star,” he said. “Something about her just stood out and still does.”

A committee of four selected Kaufman out of 38 applicants.

Sailer said Kaufman will offer a new perspective and a fresh approach for the department.

Kaufman said she wants to bring in more organization, as well as more technology and social media use.

It’s a strong department already, she said. The sports programs have high attendance and other activities have a lot of community support and involvement.

Most of all, Kaufman wants to use her new position for good.

“God gave me gifts and this is the best way to display my gifts,” she said. “It’s a total godsend that this position even exists. It’s a dream to do something that highlights my strengths, and I get to do it with and for people.”

JESSICA LARSEN, staff writer, may be reached at or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at