Officially, Jane Foltz is retiring from the city of Abilene after 20 years, starting with the Abilene Parks and Recreation Department in 2000 and ending as the Abilene city manager.
But Foltz’ service with the city of Abilene goes back a bit further.
She started as a lifeguard at the Abilene Municipal Pool when she was still a junior attending Abilene High School.
Foltz said that summer she was babysitting a couple kids and taking them to the pool. One day she was told one of the lifeguards had broken her arm and was asked to be the replacement.
“They knew I had my senior lifeguarding certification. That is what started me in parks and rec,” she said.
Foltz is a 1975 graduate of Abilene High School and she was a lifeguard in the summer months after graduation. She was promoted to assistant manager in 1978.
After graduating from Kansas State University, she returned to Abilene and worked for the parks and rec department under Bill Gravette.
Gravette enticed Foltz to be the city pool manager in 1998. Gravette, who was the director of parks and recreation beginning in 1974, died of a heart attack a few days before the pool opened that year.
Wayne Burns was the director of the department for about 18 months after that. When he left, Foltz was named the director of the Abilene Parks and Recreation Department in March 2001. She was then named interim city manager in June 2019 and in January 2020 started as the Abilene city manager.
No one change or accomplishment stands out during her tenure. There have been multiple events.
The Abilene Community Center which opened in 2005 gave the department multiple opportunities for expansion.
Programs such as soccer, dance and tumbling, basketball and volleyball were developed or expanded. Soccer and dance and tumbling programs had been offered through private entities.
“We built the programs by the need,” she said. “People would come in and say, ‘why don’t you try this?’ Sometimes it would be successful and sometimes it failed.
“What was fun is, we had the high school coaches involved,” she said of the sports activities. “They were getting involved in the youth programs, running camps and clinics. We looked at it as building the future of school athletics. That was a lot of fun being connected to the high school programs.”
Another big event was the renovation of the Abilene City Pool in 2008. Also upgraded was the fountain at the Abilene Rose Garden.
A revamp of Little Ike Park was finished in 2019.
Foltz said it was a privilege working for the city of Abilene.
“I have always felt that way. I love doing projects,” she said. “What made it easy was the staff. I have always had great staff from when I managed the pool — those lifeguards. We would talk about the early years. All of these kids that worked for me became very successful and that to me is just so fun to see where they are today.”
Foltz said she had no intention of being the city manager when she applied to be the interim city manager in June 2019.
She said she just wanted to “hold down the fort” until the next person came.
“We were in the middle of a number of projects,” she said. “I just wanted to keep the momentum going.
“But then the more I got into it, the more I liked it,” she said.
Foltz said she learned a lot as the city manager.
“It is a different kind of learning,” she said. “I am very fortunate that the city of Abilene has provided me the opportunity.”
Some of those projects during her term as city manager include the Eighth Street improvement, the water drainage issue in northeast Abilene which is being accomplished, updates to the city building and the Garfield project.
Foltz said she plans to travel, have a flower garden and follow the grandchildren.
“Spend more time outside and volunteering,” she said. “During harvest, I still drive a wheat truck every year.”
Contact Tim Horan at email@example.com.