Being Rifle's recreation director has been fun, but for Aleks Briedis, family is what matters most.
Briedis, 38, has headed the city's recreation department since 1999. This spring, he's leaving his post and moving back to Chicago, where he was born. His last day on the job will be May 30.
"I'll miss the small town atmosphere, I've fallen in love with that," he said. "All the outdoor recreation, the skiing and the fishing. And it's been great working with everyone at the city."
Briedis said the decision was prompted by his ex-wife's desire to return to Chicago with their 10-year-old twin girls. He's also looking forward to being closer to his parents and members of his extended family in the Latvian community. Briedis' parents came to the U.S. from Latvia during World War II.
In his 14 years as the city's recreation director, Briedis oversaw a long list of improvements to the city's recreation infrastructure, including the passage of a 1-cent sales tax to fund his department's capital projects.
He was centrally involved in securing funding for the construction of Centennial Park, the Rifle skateboard park, and several new trails in town, among other improvements.
"He's been a great employee," said City Manager John Hier. "He's been instrumental in moving the department forward, he's obtained millions of dollars in grants for new city facilities."
Briedis said his principal challenge when he started the job was a small budget - $77,000 - and a staff of one, himself. The department has grown to five full-time employees, and the department's annual budget sits at roughly $3 million.
Briedis made news last fall when he ran for Garfield County Commissioner as a Democrat in the county's third district, attempting to unseat incumbent Republican Mike Samson.
Although he lost the race by a margin of 55 percent to 44 percent, Briedis' campaign sparked public debate on environmental issues, including the regulation of gas drilling and the need for a long-term economic plan in the county for the post-fossil fuel era.
Briedis advocated industries like renewable energy, tourism and recreation and sustainable agriculture as potential long-term economic alternatives to fossil fuel extraction.
"I was advocating a long term view in general," he said, "a 100-year plan rather than a 10-year plan. You are being reactive if you don't have a plan."
In addition to his post in city government, Briedis also served on the board of the Rifle Regional Economic Development Corp. during his time in Rifle, as well as the Garfield County Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Coalition and a group dedicated to building a contiguous network of bike and pedestrian trails from Garfield County to Pitkin County.
Once his work in Rifle is done, he said he plans to take a summer vacation at a family-owned house on Lake Michigan.
"I'm looking at it as a mini-retirement, since after this I'll probably work until retirement," he said.