By Lasca Randels
WARSAW — Some people switch jobs frequently in a quest for continual change, higher salary, different title or a new environment.
Others — like Warsaw Parks & Recreation Department Superintendent Larry Plummer — find a job they love and stick with it.
Plummer began working full-time with the parks department Sept. 23, 1984, at the age of 18. This marks the beginning of his 36th year with the department.
The path to Plummer’s long career at the parks department began when he was 14.
“I started working part time at Oakwood Cemetery when I was 14,” Plummer said. “I worked there for three summers.”
Plummer said a bad storm hit the area during the last summer he worked at Oakwood. The cemetery crew assisted the Warsaw Parks Department with tree cleanup.
“That’s when I met Park Superintendent Richard “Dick” Hamman,” Plummer said. “ On that day, Dick told me I could come work at the parks department anytime I wanted to.”
Plummer said he grew up doing maintenance work.
“My dad was a mechanic, so that was a strong influence on me. It just worked out that the city had a need for that kind of help and at the age of 14 there weren’t a lot of employment options,” he said. “The cemetery was a great start with the City of Warsaw, but out of all the city departments, I always wanted to work with the parks.”
After graduating high school in 1984, Plummer worked at the Warsaw Parks Department for a short time before moving to Fort Myers, Fla. where he worked at a golf community.
“That was a full-time construction and maintenance position. I stayed for three hot summer months and then decided that Indiana was the place for me,” Plummer said. “I moved back home in September 1984 and that’s when I started full-time at the Parks Department.”
At the age of 21, Plummer became one of the youngest park assistant superintendents in the state of Indiana. He served as the assistant superintendent for 23 years. In 2012, Plummer was appointed superintendent of the department by Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer.
“The strong support that our community has for parks and recreation has been a great motivator during my career,” Plummer said. “Over the years, we’ve been able to build up our recreation programs and make continuous improvements to our parks.”
There’s always a project to work on or a vision to achieve, Plummer said, with each project having challenges that require cooperation and collaboration.
He said he has met and worked with many talented people throughout his career and feels he has learned a lot through those relationships.
“At the same time, I’ve been able to pass on knowledge,” Plummer said. “I enjoy working with others and being part of a team. I’ve also enjoyed interacting with and serving members of the community. It’s a great reward to see people enjoying our beautiful parks and participating in our recreation events.”
One of the biggest changes in the department, Plummer said, has been the development of Central Park.
“Before that, there wasn’t really a centerpiece for the parks. Central really came together with the addition of Kiddie Land, Biblical Gardens and Central Park Gardens,” Plummer said. “It allowed us to develop recreation programs and start up the summer concert series.”
Plummer said technology has had a major impact on the department as well. Implementing new software programs, having a park website and using social media has changed the way the department operates internally and communicates with the public.
“It’s easier to make building reservations, sign up for our recreation programs and find out what our parks have to offer,” Plummer said. “With these changes, there was a need for more park employees. When I started at the park there were about nine or 10 employees and now there are 19.”
Plummer has been involved in numerous parks projects. Some that stand out, he said, are the construction of Kiddie Land, the creation of McKinley Park and Krebs Trailhead Park, the improvements at Lucerne Park, the building of Fribley Field, the installation of several playgrounds and— most recently — the planning and overseeing of the Lucerne amphitheater project.
“I’m proud of all the projects I’ve been involved in, but Kiddie Land and Fribley Field have a special place in my heart,” Plummer said. “They give kids the opportunity to play, be active, have fun and make memories.”
While he doesn’t dislike any part of his job, Plummer reports that as he gets older, the late night call-ins “aren’t my favorite.”
During the past year, Plummer dealt with health issues after being diagnosed with cancer. He expressed gratitude to the parks department, the city and the public for their support during that time. He is now cancer-free.
When asked if he has thought about retirement, Plummer responded, “Retire? Not in my vocabulary. I want to continue to implement our five year and Central Park master plans. I want to see our offices relocate back to Central Park. I’d like to have more water activities on our shorelines at Center and Pike Lakes.”
He said he would like the progress at Kelly Park to continue, including revitalization of the pond there. He also hopes to continue to be involved in the conceptual design of Kelly Park.
Plummer enjoys the camaraderie he shares with park employees.
“I get to work with an outstanding crew daily. We’re like a family,” Plummer said.
He also likes interacting with the public and said he appreciates the community support for new park and recreation opportunities.
“Each day I go to work, I know I’m helping to give someone the opportunity to enjoy our parks and recreation programs.”