Meet Our Team
Michael Whitaker, our City of Billings Parks, Recreation and Public Lands Director, has been serving the community since November of 2006. However, during his impeccable career, Mr. Whitaker has held positions as Assistant Director of the National Trail Parks and Recreation District, Clark County, Ohio; Recreation Director in Evendale, Ohio; and Director of Parks, Culture and Recreation in Unalaska, Alaska (commonly known as “Dutch Harbor, Alaska”). In all of his leadership roles, he has been committed to providing quality parks, facilities and recreation programs to the community. Before moving to Montana in 2006, Mr. Whitaker completed his A.S Degree in Civil Construction Engineering at Clark State Community College (1980), B.S. Degree in Health, Physical Education and Recreation at Wright State University (1989) and Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Wright State University (2006). He is currently certified as a Park and Recreation Professional (CPRP), Aquatic Facility Operator (AFO) and AFO Instructor. Mr. Whitaker has completed course work in the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) Director’s School Graduate Institute (2013), NRPA’s Aquatic Management School (2011 & 2012), NRPA’s Director’s School (2009 & 2010) and Pacific Northwest Resource Management School (2000 & 2001). In addition, Mr. Whitaker has been involved in the following professional organizations: NRPA’s AFO Exam Review Committee, speaker at state conferences and served on the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association’s Board of Directors. He also gives back to the park and recreation field as an instructor at the collegiate level with MSU-B Outdoor Adventure Leadership Program and instructing the NRPA’s AFO course. Mr. Whitaker’s interests outside of the classroom and field include hiking and exploring the Beartooth Mountains with his wife Angie, sons Jake and Rick, as well as his friends. Mystic Lake has been the greatest adventure hike while in Montana for Mr. Whitaker. He can also share stories about halibut fishing in Dutch Harbor Alaska, skiing at Red Lodge and Snowmobiling in West Yellowstone with his sons. As the leader of our team, Mr. Whitaker ensures we strive every day to provide the City of Billings with quality parks, facilities and recreation programs.
Mike Pigg, was named the City of Billings Parks, Recreation and Public Lands Park Superintendent in September of 2017 after previously serving as the department’s Parks Supervisor for the past four years. He has been serving the Billings community since February 2013. Within his job, Mike focuses on providing a safe and inviting place for people to recreate. He’s been residing in Montana the last ten years, spending time with his family and dogs. Mike can also be found wood working, camping, upland bird hunting or gardening. Mike attended Laramie Senior High School in 1982, graduated in 1989 from Montana State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Horticulture. He is currently certified as a Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI). Mike strives to provide the best service to the people and visitors of Billings. He wants the community to enjoy the time they spend in their city parks. He strives to motivate his employees to be their best and to produce parks that they are proud of.
Kory Thomson, the Recreation Superintendent as of November 2013, originally started with Billings Parks, Recreation and Public Lands Department as a Recreation Supervisor in May of 1992. A Billings West High School graduate in 1987, Kory went on to earn his Bachelor of Science Degree in Recreation from the University of North Dakota in 1991. Having moved to Billings at the age of 3 from Jamestown North Dakota, he provides a grass roots view for the rest of the team in regards to the Billings community. Kory is currently a Certified Parks and Recreation Professional (CPRP), Certified Pool Operator (CPO) and Certified Aquatic Facility Operator (AFO). He has served on the Executive Board of the Montana Trails, Recreation and Park Association (MTRPA) since 2005 where he was the President from 2011-2013. Kory takes his sports very seriously, as he keeps current on a variety of different events. As a coach for both his son Kyhler (baseball, football and basketball) and daughter Kailey (basketball), Kory supports his children’s athletic pursuits from bleachers to sidelines. In addition, he enjoys the various hunting excursions he gets to take with his son, Kyhler. When he’s not attending any of his children’s athletic events, Kory can be found attempting to perfect his golf swing. And if you ever get caught in conversation with Kory, he’ll have fish tales to share as he makes the time to enjoy Montana streams every year. Starting in 1997, he has also been on the sidelines as an MOA High School Football Official. In regards to his work, Kory enjoys the working relationships he has with his peers in the community. Under his leadership, the Recreation Division continues on their pursuit to provide innovative and positive recreational opportunities for people of all ages. Our team member, Kory, comes to work every day with the love of working in the parks and recreation field. He appreciates the opportunity to work in a department with true professionals that strive to provide the Billings community with quality recreation programs, parks and facilities.
Mark Jarvis is the City of Billings Parks, Recreation and Public Lands Park Planner and has been in his current position since March of 2005. With this position, Mark has had the opportunity to stay close to what he enjoys in parks and recreation by means of planning and developing parks, open spaces and trails for our community to exercise, recreate and enjoy the Montana landscape. Mark himself has been enjoying Montana’s beauty the last 9 years as a resident. After graduating from Pleasant Grove High School, he went on to receive degrees from Utah State University in Plant Science and Landscape Architecture. He is a registered Landscape Architect holding licenses in Montana, Missouri and Kansas. He is also a Certified Playground Safety Inspector since 2006. Mark’s current professional memberships include: American Society of Landscape Architects since 1997, National Recreation and Parks Association since 2005, and Montana Trails, Recreation and Parks Association since 2007. In his free time, Mark enjoys gardening, hiking, woodworking and biking. As a valuable team member Mark strives to make decisions every day that will add to the quality of life and livability of Billings. He believes that parks, trails and public spaces are for the community to enjoy, socialize and recreate in, in order to renew and invigorate our mind, body and soul.
Chris Waite, Cemetery/Parks Supervisor has been with the City of Billings Parks, Recreation and Public Lands Department since May of 2013; Chris originally joined the team as the Volunteer Coordinator and in 2018 accepted the Cemetery/Parks Supervisor position. Chris has extensive experience and has worked professionally in the Parks and Recreation Field since 2005. Chris’s position allows him the privilege of working with a wide variety of groups and individuals from all around the City of Billings. One of his favorite aspects about this job is that it allows him to work in all the different parks at a variety of times throughout the year. Chris says witnessing how much the citizens care about their parks keeps him going throughout each various task within his job. Chris was the valedictorian from La Grande High School in 1998 and an honor graduate from Brigham Young University-Idaho in 2005 with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art. Additionally, he is a Certified Parks and Recreation Professional since September 2013, a Certified Pool Operator, National Recreation and Parks Association member since 2005, Certified Professional Rescuer and a current member of Montana Trails, Recreation and Parks Association. Since May of 2013, Chris and his family have made Billings their home. His three adventurous young children have grown to be his biggest hobby, as he enjoys chasing after them. In his sparse free time, which is usually from 10:00 pm to midnight, Chris enjoys making pottery and is a casual board game enthusiast. He’s recently discovered paddle boarding, and since his family enjoys getting outdoors, they plan to add that to the growing list of outdoor recreation they enjoy. Chris’s favorite natural areas to enjoy locally are Phipps Park, Riverfront Park, the Rims and Lake Elmo. In his “younger days” he was a soccer athlete and runner; however he currently has become invested in cycling and hiking. Each day Chris strives to help connect Billings residents to volunteer experiences that are meaningful and have an impact on themselves and the community. As our community is a valuable asset to the Billings Parks and Recreation Department, having Chris on our team has added the ability to build substantial relationships and partnerships between those vested in what we do.
Steve McConnell, the Billings City Forester and Natural Resources Department Supervisor has been on board since January of 2017. Immediately prior to Steve’s move to Billings, Steve worked as a Regional Extensions Specialist in Forestry for Washington State University. Housed in Spokane, he covered most of north- and southeast Washington and, as most of the population of eastern Washington (84%) lives in cities, it was in that position that Steve began his urban forestry career in earnest. Steve’s formal education includes a B.S. in Forest Resources Management from the University of Washington, an M.S. in Forest Ecology from Virginia Tech and a Ph.D. in Forest Ecology and Management from the University of Idaho. Steve is a long-time member of the Society of American Foresters an organization in which he has held numerous leadership positions and was a persistent advocate for bringing urban forestry into the fold, now an official position of the SAF. Steve is also a past member of the Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals and a new member of the International Society of Arboriculture. Steve has 5 children, 2 of them now off in college, and collectively they have been his passion and recipient of whatever time was not allocated to work and the business of living for the past 20 years. With them he has ridden bikes, chauffeured aspiring gymnasts, dancers, artists and soccer/football/basketball players to practices, games and performances and watched everything from Dragon Tales, Disney Channel to Breaking Bad with them as their interests changed over the years. He has also had memorable fishing trips which sometimes led to great success at catching fish but more often than not were highlighted by trying to re-capture worms let loose by younger siblings and watching favorite lures disappear to ill-advised casts into trees. Before kids, Steve loved reading, fishing, bird watching and biking and one day soon will do all of those things once again. For now, outside of his children, nothing brings Steve more joy than planting trees into an area that lacks them, working with his crew to maintain the trees Billings already has and helping city residents better appreciate their urban forest by communicating to them the multiple benefits trees provide and the many ways they improve our quality of life.
Paul Reinhardt, Community Outreach and Engagement Coordinator, joined the City of Billings Parks, Recreation and Public Lands Department in April of 2014. Paul attended Warren Township High School in Gurnee, Illinois. After graduating high school, Paul pursued his Junior Hockey career, playing in Minnesota and California. He enrolled at Utah State University and obtain his Bachelor of Science Degree in Recreation Resource Management in 2012, where he also played collegiate hockey. Paul graduated from the University of Montana with his Masters of Public Administration (MPA) in 2019. After spending nearly 5 years in the department as a Recreation Specialist providing youth and adult recreational programs to the community, Paul accepted the position as the Community Outreach and Engagement Coordinator in March of 2019. Paul enjoys meeting and working with members of the Billings community. He finds great value in providing volunteer and engagement opportunities for the community and creating avenues for individuals and groups to support our Parks. He believes that through his position, he will be able to better connect the community to the many Parks and open spaces that make Billings unique. Paul spends his recreational time with his wife Michelle and his four legged sidekicks Sherpa and Austin. When he is not at work, he can be found hiking, biking, fly fishing, rafting, camping, cooking or playing hockey. One of his most cherished accomplishments was finishing the LoToJa (Logan, UT to Jackson, WY) race, the longest single-day USAC-sanctioned bicycle race in the country at 206 miles.
Brad Knutson, a Recreation Specialist as of January, 2018, originally started with with the City of Billings Parks, Recreation and Public Lands Department as a seasonal tennis instructor and coordinator in 2009. Brad attended Skyview High School, graduating in 2009. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts in Music Education from Montana State University Billings. Brad played varsity men’s tennis for Montana State University Billings as well as worked as a teaching professional at the tennis center. Upon graduation, Brad worked as a USPTA certified teaching professional and later as the head teaching professional at the Elks Tennis Center. He also owned and operated a private piano studio. Brad lives a very active lifestyle and enjoys the variety of responsibilities of the Recreation Specialist position. He enjoys playing tennis competitively throughout the Intermountain District, golfing, teaching music, hunting, and fishing with his family. During his free time on the weekends, he can be found in his garage working on various automotive projects. Brad grew up participating in many programs offered by Billings Parks and Recreation and is excited and grateful for the opportunity to provide recreational opportunities for the Billings community.
Chris Martin, Recreation Specialist, began with the City of Billings Parks, Recreation and Public Lands Department in May of 2019. Chris is born and raised in Billings and lives here with his wife and three children. Chris graduated from Billings West High School in 2002 and Montana State University Billings in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Finance. He played baseball for the Billings Scarlets American Legion Baseball Team in high school and continued on to play for the Montana State University Billings Baseball Program in college. His love of baseball then led to coaching. After graduating college, Chris coached the Billings Cardinals and Scarlets for 7 years, and the MSUB Yellowjackets for 4 years as the Assistant Coach. Chris then began his career in Recreation with MSUB in the Recreational Activities Department where he worked for 5 years. Chris enjoys golfing, running, hiking and many other outdoor activities. While indoors he likes woodworking, cooking, and playing drums. Most of his time is spent with his wife and three young children. They all enjoy taking trips to local parks, ice skating, bike riding, and being with friends and family.
Jennifer Brown, Senior Service Specialist, joined the City of Billings Parks, Recreation and Public Lands Department full time in 2019. Some of you may know her from Fit by Design, Zumba Gold or Discovering Nutrition. She grew up in Billings, MT and graduated from Billings Senior High in 1998. She has close to two decades in healthcare most of which she spent serving the Billings area senior population. She started her career as a Certified Nurses Aid and Unit Secretary at Billings Clinic. After several years of service she decided she wanted to work more with preventing individuals from having to come into the hospital in the first place. She has a wide range of medical and health education background making it a perfect fit to create fun and effective senior programs. Jennifer holds a Master’s degree in Public Health Nutrition & Health Promotion and a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition Science from Liberty University and Kaplan University respectively. She holds certifications in Gerontology, Healthy Aging and is finishing her group fitness and personal trainer certifications in the coming 2020. Apart from her accomplishments as a fitness instructor and health education specialist, she is also is a Certified Lactation Counselor, Pound Fitness & Licensed Zumba Instructor Specialties, to mention a few. This simply means she has been trained to provide safe, fun and cost-effective programs for all ages. Fun Fact: In 2018 she helped create and performed in a “flash mob” for RiverStone Health’s 10-year employee celebration. Her passion is dance, healthy relationships with food, fun fitness and spending time with her family. She loves being outdoors with her husband and daughter and is a lifetime learner. She loves to laugh; which may be heard across the Senior Center most every day. They say laughing is the best medicine and it sure is for Jennifer. She truly believes in making the healthy choice the fun and easy choice.
Officer Garrett Peterson, was selected as the Billings Police Department Parks Officer in November 2019. He grew up in Billings, MT and graduated from Montana State University – Billings with a degree in Sociology. Garrett was hired as a patrol officer by the Billings Police Department in December 2009. During Garrett’s time with the Billings Police Department he has worked patrol along with several other specialty duties. Garrett is currently a member of the Department’s Bomb Squad, Honor Guard and he is also a Background Investigator. He enjoys spending time with his family and friends along with being outdoors. Garrett is committed to improving the quality of life in the Parks through a customer service, problem solving partnership with the community. He will assist Park and Rec employees to provide the safest environment possible in order for park goers to have an enjoyable park experience.
Melonie Trang takes care of the City of Billings Parks, Recreation and Public Lands department financially with her impressive skills as our Administrative Secretary/Administrative Assistant II. She has held her position since July of 2006 and finds the diverse staff to be quite the team. She’s lived in Montana for forty-two years where she’s graduated New Life High School, became trained in Child Development, beginning Accounting, Certified Professional Rescuer, and computer programs such as Microsoft Office. Melonie’s interests include gardening, baking, church involvement, family gatherings, and spending time caring for her precious granddaughter. Melonie comes to work each day with the community in consideration as she ensures her financial duties are completed in a timely manner and our department utilizes our funds wisely.
Linda Gerhart has been serving the City of Billings as an Administrative Support I with the Billings Community and Senior Center since May of 2012. Her positive personality and inviting smile has provided this team with the energy needed to tackle almost anything. Linda loves the people she works for and with. She claims the seniors are fun and the volunteers at the Community and Senior Center are the best. With her gusto, it’s no wonder she served on the cheerleading and pep club while at Fargo North High School. Linda continued her education post-high school with accounting and business classes. She’s lived in Montana for 38 years where she’s taken to outdoor activities, crafting, traveling and her all-time favorite hobby: being a grandmother to her five amazing grandchildren and a great-grandmother to her precious great-grandson. Linda and her husband opened their home to foster children after their biological children had left the nest. She’s also hosted two foreign exchange students and been involved in the CASA program while living in Havre. Each day Linda brings to work the attitude to serve the seniors at the Community and Senior Center to the best of her ability. She wants to ensure that everyone visiting the facility has a happy experience.