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Somehow a career in recreation doesn't seem like the most logical preparation for a career in risk management.
Betsy Kutska, however, has combined these two incongruous worlds and in the process become a prominent leader in the field of park and recreation risk management.
Ms. Kutska for more than 10 years has served as the executive director of the Park District Risk Management Agency, a self-insurance pool of 121 park and recreation districts based in Wheaton, Ill.
The 46-year-old mother is equally at home discussing canoeing, rope climbing, contractors liability coverage or credit allocation formulas.
"I've found a niche career that I enjoy," she said.
Ms. Kutska said she particularly enjoys the breadth of responsibilities and activities associated with being PDRMA's executive director.
"It's just never a dull moment," she explained. "It's always 10 irons going. That's what is exciting. I'm never bored."
Ms. Kutska credits her success in her position to several personal qualities. "I'm good at taking a big project and sticking to it," she said. Also, "I devote a lot of attention to detail while still looking at the big picture, and I'm very goal oriented."
However, Ms. Kutska admits that "never in my life" did she imagine she would have a career in risk management. She recalled that before joining PDRMA, while she was working at a park district in a suburb of Chicago, she said to a colleague: "I don't like insurance. I don't know anything about it. And I don't want to know anything about it."
Ms. Kutska was satisfied with her successful career as a parks and recreation professional.
After receiving a bachelor of science degree in recreation and park administration from Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ms. Kutska in 1973 became a recreation supervisor for the Des Plaines Park District near Chicago. In 1976, she became assistant director of recreation for the city of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Two years later she moved back to the Chicago area to accept a position as superintendent of recreation for the Northeast DuPage Special Recreation Assn. in Elmhurst, Ill. In 1981, Ms. Kutska became the executive director of the Batavia Park District outside of Chicago.
While working at the Batavia Park District, Ms. Kutska became involved in a fledgling self-insurance pool of park and recreation districts that eventually emerged as PDRMA. When PDRMA was ready to hire its first full-time staff person, Ms. Kutska was tapped for the job.
Ms. Kutska said she accepted the position as PDRMA's first executive director because it was an "opportunity to build something from nothing." The position evolved to incorporate "the best of both worlds."
"I love my job," Ms. Kutska stated. "I couldn't imagine doing anything different."
Ms. Kutska said she is not interested in pursuing a career in risk management in any other venue, such as becoming an insurance broker, becoming the risk manager of a public entity or joining another insurance pool. "I wouldn't be in risk management if it wasn't for parks and recreation," she said.
Ms. Kutska has two professional designations that attest to her dual expertise and allegiance: the Associate in Risk Management designation and the Certified Leisure Professional designation.
Ms. Kutska is active in several professional organizations. She is a member of the Public Risk Management Assn. and in 1993 served on its board of directors as president of the pooling section. Ms. Kutska also has served on the pooling section board of directors for several years and has been in charge of numerous committees.
Ms. Kutska was instrumental in creating the Illinois Governmental Assn. of Pools in 1990 and currently is chairman of the group.
She is a member of the National Recreation & Park Assn. and the Illinois Park & Recreation Assn. Currently she is the chairman of the state group's joint legislative committee.
Ms. Kutska lectures around the country on risk management topics including playground safety, athletic liability, aquatic risk management and contractual risk transfer.
She is married and has an 11-year old son, Kenny. Ms. Kutska's husband, Ken, is the superintendent of parks and planning for the Wheaton Park District, a suburban Chicago agency.