BY PETER DORFMAN
Shortly after the 2015 election, Mick Renneisen got a call from newly elected Mayor John Hamilton. “I thought this was the call where the new mayor asks you to stay on in his administration,” says Renneisen, the director of the Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department under the two previous administrations.
Instead, Hamilton asked Renneisen, 59, to serve as deputy mayor. “I never saw that coming,” says Renneisen, who, at the time, agreed to a six-month interim stint. In May, his appointment became permanent.
It’s unusual, he agrees, for an urban deputy mayor to come from Parks and Rec. But he notes, “Public engagement is a big aspect of the parks director’s job. You’re in contact with more residents than in any other department — usually in a positive way.”
Renneisen graduated from Indiana University in 1979 with a degree in physical education. His first job with Parks and Rec was in 1981 as sports coordinator. Sports had been a big part of his life growing up in Jasper, Indiana, though he wasn’t a standout athlete. “I was the last guy to get picked for any team I went out for — just good enough to make the team, not good enough to play significant minutes,” he says. “I like to think I was a hard-nosed practice player who made the stronger players better.”
He’s long been involved in local sports. A WTIU broadcaster in the 1970s, he’s been a press box statistician for IU football and basketball games for 33 years.
In his new job as deputy mayor, Renneisen is responsible for projects that include the city’s broadband initiative, affordable housing, and addressing a significant water quality issue the new administration announced in its first week.
His background, he says, gives him insight into crucial infrastructure developments west of the downtown Square. “When I became the director 20 years ago, we did a survey and found, to our surprise, that the number one form of recreation in this city was walking and biking for pleasure,” he says. “Trails will continue to grow and connect with the B-Line and be critical parts of the city’s infrastructure.
“Our peers in other Indiana city governments might laugh about the things we worry about here,” he adds. “Things like whether to cull the deer herd at Griffy Lake or plant invasive species. But I’m very thankful I live in a community that values quality of life.”