Norwalk hires new park and rec boss

Norwalk officials on Friday hired a new park and recreation superintendent following a "grueling" process that included a problem-solving exercise, interviews and assessments.
Aaron Krause
Oct 15, 2011


City officials on Friday hired Joe Lindenberger as the new Norwalk Park and Recreation superintendent, following a "grueling" process that included a problem-solving exercise, interviews and assessments, Mayor Sue Lesch said.

Lesch said Lindenberger outshined the other candidates by a long shot. He became the new superintendent effective Friday, replacing Ken Leber, who retired after 32 years with the department.

Lindenberger will be the third superintendent in 35 years.

"That's pretty incredible," Lesch said.

As superintendent, Lesch said Lindenberger will oversee a department with nine full-time employees and about 75 part-timers. As the recreation director, Lindenberger said he oversaw a staff of about 100, mostly seasonal help including umpires, referees and scorekeepers.

Sixty people applied for the position, including two from Norwalk, Lesch said. She and a panel interviewed six candidates by phone and four in person. Lindenberger was the unanimous choice, Lesch said.

The panel included Norwalk Safety-Service Director Linda Hebert, Norwalk Public Works Director Josh Snyder and park board members Patti Arlin-Smith and Jim Hagemeyer.

Lindenberger has worked in the department for 22 years. He served as the department's recreation coordinator until 1998, when he became recreation director. He graduated from Monroeville High School in 1989 and Bowling Green State University in 1994, with a sports management degree.

Lindenberger said he is "optimistic, tickled pink, ecstatic and relieved" that Lesch hired him as the new superintendent.

While Lindenberger's salary is not set, it will involve steps ranging from $53,000 to $60,000, Lesch said.

Lesch stressed that Lindenberger's hiring came after a process.

"I do not believe in coronations," the mayor said. "I have always, always had a process."

Lesch said her process for hiring department heads has always included assembling a team to conduct interviews.

For this search, Lesch took Hebert up on her suggestion to include park board members. Lesch added they know what issues the park and recreation department faces.

The hiring process included an hour-and-a-half interview for each candidate. Lesch called it an "experiential" interview, one that included a question asking candidates to consider a scenario and how they reacted. Lesch said the question allowed interviewers to ascertain how candidates dealt with a difficult situation -- such as an irate citizen entering the Ernsthausen Community Center and demanding to speak to someone.

Candidates for the position also took a management assessment, inquiring about their managerial style.

"Joe did exceptionally well on the management assessment," Lesch said.

Lindenberger said he respects the interview process and feels better knowing he had to compete for it.

Candidates craved the position, Lesch said. Some could not believe the quality of the facilities the city has, she added.

Lesch said people were pressing her to hire Lindenberger.

"Joe needed to prove to me he's the best candidate," the mayor said.

Lindenberger, 40, lives in rural Norwalk with his wife, Brandy. Between the two, they have seven children, ages 5 to 14.



WAY TO GO JOE!!!! So happy everything is working out in your favor!! New house New postion at work!! GREAT JOB! Your an amazing worker who deserved this!!! CONGRATS!


Congrats Joe...A position that has been long coming..

Kottage Kat

Joe Wishing you all the best,and yes I do like you. Wink Wink. Kat with a K


Yeah, people were pressing for Joe is right. Thanks Dwight...and congrats Joe.

Cliff Cannon

T.J. Quick question: Why does Dwight not get 'hate mail' like the Mayor does ? Afterall,he voted for the soccer park,correct? Not to mention,he got, to city hall before the Mayor,so despite having seniority on her did she still make him one of her 'sheeples' ? Now your giving him credit for Joe's promotion,yet the Mayor gave him the job,so..... I really don't want Dwight,or anyone for that matter slammed,just wondered why he geets a free pass,that's all


Regardless of his time with the department there was a much better candidate for the job. Someone who would do this city a great deal of good.


Really? I thought of replacements and his name was the only that came to my mind.


Have you actually worked in the recreation side of the department with all of the people?


All of the people, no. Since you have, pray tell us who is the best person for the job.


I never said i worked with them either. Just asking if you had.


Joe will do a fine job leading the Park and Recreation department. He is the third, and first two were super-excellent. He will do fine following in their footsteps. Sorry you didn't get the job Anonymousreader101!


I wasn't in the running for the job. I just think somebody else could do a better job. Not trying to say Joe will not do a good job but I know of somebody who would do a great job.

hit the road jack

Don't worry,he'll be there long enough for his higher pay to get his retirement up where he wants it then retire like the rest of Norwalk did.


I bet anonymous was one of the candidates.


Way to go Joe !!! You deserve the promotion I know you'll do an amazing job !!!!!


Congratulations Joe !