The Ottawa community is the right fit for Chad Bruner, new recreation commission director.

“I loved the community here the first time, the atmosphere, the people I work with, so I just thought I wanted to get back closer to home,” Bruner, a native of Moran, said.

Bruner, 27, first worked at the Ottawa Recreation Commission for a period of time after graduating from Emporia State University and before taking a position as assistant director of campus recreation for Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri.

“When I left the first time, I wanted to see what else was out there,” Bruner said.

But, he added, Ottawa feels like home to him. He now comes into the role of director after serving as the assistant director for the last six months. The position, he said, hasn’t changed too much, but does include more behind-the-scenes and management work.

“For the most part, it’s pretty similar to what I was doing in the assistant director spot,” Bruner said. “A lot of getting out in the public, a lot of building relationships, strengthening partnerships.”

Bruner succeeds Tommy Sink, who retired this month and had been the director for the last 12 years. The ORC does not plan on hiring a new assistant director.

Everyday duties at the ORC can carry a wide variety, from managing budgets and attending committee meetings to helping plan new activities.

“The good thing about working in rec[reation] is you come to work, and it’s not the same thing over and over,” Bruner said. “It can be a lot of different things.”

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in recreation management from Emporia State in 2012. When he first entered college, he was unsure of a career path, but employment opportunities at Emporia State helped him realize recreation was the right one. He started working part-time at the Emporia Recreation Center, in addition the Student Recreation Center at ESU.

“I also had some hands-on experience,” Bruner said. “I worked at Camp Alexander, which is a kids camp, and I thought, ‘You know what? I love working with kids, I love working with people — the atmosphere of getting to do something different every day at work.’”

Bruner also had an internship with ESU athletics, so he received training in how to do operations and fundraising, he said.

He said the ORC has a solid core of programs and events, but believes they can expand on those. The deadline for baseball and softball sign-ups, including adult softball, is soon, he said.

“You want to make sure your core group of activities is good, but you always want to try new things,” he said. “I feel like we are going down that path to try new events and new programs.”

Susan Welte is a Herald staff writer. Email her at