Helping to maintain the great outdoors

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By Jennifer Garcia

Jeff Humpton has always been fond of the outdoors. His love of recreation is evident from his surfing days in Orange County, Calif., to his current job as parks superintendent for Los Alamos County.

Before moving to Los Alamos, Humpton owned his own landscaping business for 12 years.

But after realizing how stressful it was to run your own business, Humpton opted to work for the Orange County school district. “I wasn’t going home stressed all the time and I liked knowing there was a steady paycheck,” he said.

Humpton, originally from Huntington Beach, Calif., gave up big city life 13 years ago to move to Los Alamos with his wife of 21 years, Sandy and now-18-year-old daughter Rachael.

He said he decided to move because his parents and sister had moved to Los Alamos.

Moving to the Atomic City was not an easy transition for the Humptons.

“It was difficult. We left the Hill and went to Santa Fe or Albuquerque every weekend,” Humpton said. “But after about five years, we settled in. Now we go back to California and wonder how we ever lived there.”

Upon relocating, Humpton took a job with the county as a parks and recreation maintenance person. He maintained the downtown area for the first five years of his employment and was then promoted to the lead maintenance person at Overlook Park.

Last winter, he was promoted to parks superintendent and has been diligently working at overseeing the parks ever since.

“I was a seasonal part-time maintenance person and worked my way up the ranks,” he said of his promotions.

As lead person at Overlook Park, Humpton oversaw a crew of six. They were responsible for maintaining the ball fields and facilities, as well as preparing for events such as softball leagues and the annual Fourth of July celebration. Part of that work included replacing irrigation systems.

“Irrigation is one of my strengths. When I was a contractor in California that was one of my main focuses. The county has allowed me to get a lot of irrigation training,” he commented.

As parks superintendent, Humpton is now responsible for a crew of 13 full-time park maintenance specialists and as many as 10 seasonal employees.

“I’m responsible for them and the maintenance of the parks and I’m in charge of purchasing as well as managing projects out in the field,” he explained.

“Half the job is fielding complaints and requests and handing them off to crews,” Humpton said of his current duties.

He said complaints and requests can range from anything as simple as pruning trees that are blocking a resident’s view to fixing a broken sprinkler head at one of the parks.

“Anything that goes through parks comes through here first,” he said.

Though Humpton is no stranger to parks maintenance, he said his current position with the county is somewhat challenging because of all the requests that come in.

“There are so many requests from so many different directions. It’s hard keeping up with all of them sometimes,” he said.

Despite the challenges, Humpton said it helps to have an excellent crew.

“Them being in the field is not a huge concern most of the time,” he said of his crew’s abilities. “As long as I take care of them, they don’t let us down.”

Although he finds fieldwork enjoyable, Humpton spends only about five hours a week in the field these days.

One of the major projects he is helping carry out is the integrated maintenance program that came about as the result from a request from council.

“We have a plan and we’re going over it,” he said. Part of the plan includes an ET monitoring system, which could save the county 30-40 percent a year on water. The system measures how much water is needed daily for watering the parks, according to elements such as the sun and wind.

In addition, restrooms are going to be installed at Camp May and a pavilion will be installed at the North Mesa picnic grounds.

Though he doesn’t have a lot of spare time, when he’s not busy overseeing the county parks, Humpton enjoys spending time with his family and going camping.

“I used to surf for 20-plus years, but I left it behind,” he said.