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Saturday, April 19, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 35.0° F  Fair
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New Madison Parks head Kevin Briski making waves at Goodman Pool
His move to ax popular pool manager draws deluge of criticism

Briski, who began in June, believes there is simply not enough work to justify a year-round manager for the Goodman Pool.
Briski, who began in June, believes there is simply not enough work to justify a year-round manager for the Goodman Pool.
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Bonnie Griswold has been employed full time and year-round as the director of Madison's Goodman pool since mid-2007. During that time, she's made a lot of friends.

"Bonnie's the best," says Shane Schwingle, the facility's lifeguard supervisor, who has worked at the pool since it opened in 2006. "If you open any Red Cross lifeguard manual in the world, her name is in there."

Griswold formerly ran the pool at MATC and worked for the Red Cross, where she helped write training manuals. She is credited, by Schwingle and others, with achieving efficiencies that have made the Goodman pool nearly self-sufficient. But on Jan. 7, she was summoned by Kevin Briski, the city's new parks superintendent, and laid off, effective immediately.

Briski, who began in June, believes there is simply not enough work to justify a year-round manager for a pool that's open just three months a year. "I feel horrible," he says. "It was a tough decision during tough economic times." He calls Griswold "capable and competent," as well as "wonderful": "She's someone we like and respect and have asked back in a seasonal position."

The plan for 2009 is to hire someone for four months, staring in May. (The pool usually opens the first week of June.) Briski says the cost will fall from about $75,000 for salary and benefits, to just $6,000 to $8,000 for a benefit-free gig "coordinating the hours."

Griswold, even before she hears how little is being offered, says she's not interested, calling it "a job set up for failure." By her lights, there's more than enough work to keep a person busy year-round. Among other things, Griswold oversaw the hiring and training of about 90 lifeguards, including those for city beaches.

"If the pool is going to continue to be safe and continue dropping its deficit, it needs a full-time person," says Griswold. She questions why the position was not changed during the budget process, suggesting it was payback: "In a nutshell, I tried to offer support for another person in the Parks Division and was perceived as too outspoken."

Briski has made several internally controversial personnel moves. One was his decision to repost the job of community services manager, after Brad Weisinger had held it for several months. Now the job is going to someone Briski knew back when he worked as a park overlord in Indiana; Briski says this person never worked for him and was a hiring committee's unanimous choice.

As for the Goodman pool, Briski says the city is fortunate to have many good lifeguards who come back year after year, thanks largely to Griswold's efforts.

But that cuts both ways. Schwingle says the lifeguards regarded Griswold as "a mom figure" and are deeply saddened by her loss; some might not come back. Lifeguard Emily Jaehnig says Griswold worked "countless hours" and did a fabulous job. "Some people just don't see how the pool could run with anyone else."

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