By Matt Mackinder
Clarkston News Editor
WATERFORD — When Dan Stencil retired as Oakland County Parks executive officer in early 2021, he did so after 43-plus years with the county.
Fast forward more than two and a half years later and the former Independence Township resident now living in Florida was honored twice in two days – first by being inducted into the mParks Hall of Fame Oct. 4 in Canton and then with a plaque dedication the next day at the Oakland County Farmers Market in Waterford.
“I’m really honored by the opportunity to have served Oakland County Parks for 43 years, six months, two days, and three minutes,” Stencil said at the plaque event in the rain. “It truly has been a labor of love and a unique opportunity here in Oakland County with all the natural resources and the great leadership that the county has had through the many years, including our Parks and Recreation Commission. Nothing was ever easy or a slam dunk, but passing our millage (in 2020) at 76% speaks volumes about what we’re doing.”
Stencil also said that he may get much of the credit, but it was hardly a one-man show.
“When I started in this vocation, we were in competition with each other, agencies both at the national level and at the state and regional level, and doing things to one-up the next community,” said Stencil. “But now, we’re all on the same page and collaborating, making resources go farther, and I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to work for Oakland County.”
Current Parks Director Chris Ward, who took over in Nov. 2021, said Stencil’s legacy is carried out throughout the county parks every single day.
“On a personal note, I want to thank Dan for handing off Oakland County Parks in better health and shape than ever before,” Ward said. “He has set us up for success and allowed us to build on that wonderful legacy and keep moving forward.”
Stencil started with Oakland County Parks and Recreation in 1977 as an assistant park supervisor at Independence Oaks County Park. In 1981, he was promoted to general maintenance mechanic at Springfield Oaks County Park and a year later was promoted to recreation program supervisor. Stencil was promoted to chief of parks in 1987 and to administrator of parks and recreation operations in 1999. Stencil began his tenure as executive officer in 2006.
One of the parks and recreation department’s latest accomplishments was the opening of Holly Oaks ORV Park in the fall of 2020. The 106-acre facility in Holly and Groveland townships is operated by the parks system and owned by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
During the plaque dedication ceremony, Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter spoke of Stencil’s legacy in the county.
“Dan, I don’t want to say you’re old, but I’m 63 and Dan started in parks and rec when I was in high school,” Coulter said. “You can do the math. Dan’s been around a while. His legacy is not just longevity but his real impact here at the parks. I got to know Dan really well when I became a county commissioner back in 2003 and candidly, parks was one of the things I ran on. I was coming there with ideas for things that I thought we should be doing in parks and to his credit, Dan was always open and receptive and fair and honest in our discussions, and we got a lot of stuff done, including Catalpa Oaks County Park (in Southfield), and many more. I always appreciated your straightforward manner.
“Significantly, in Dan’s tenure, we passed two parks and rec millages with both more than 75% approval. That just demonstrates the voters and the residents of Oakland County’s confidence and love and appreciation of those parks, and Dan, that’s because of the leadership you’ve shown for so long. That’s really true. I’m a politician, but when you get 75% of the vote, you’re doing something right.”
Locally, Stencil served with the Clarkston Area Optimists Club.
A graduate of Northern Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in Park Management and Recreational Planning, Stencil earned a master’s degree in Recreation Administration from Western Illinois University.
Married to Susan and the father of Andrew, Bradley, Kate, and Sarah, Stencil has also competed nationally in the Senior Olympics.
TOP PHOTO: Dan Stencil glowingly shows off his plaque that will reside inside the Oakland County Farmers Market in Waterford. ABOVE PHOTO: Thanking former Oakland County Parks Executive Officer Dan Stencil at the plaque dedication ceremony for his 43 years of service to Oakland County residents are, from left, Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner and Parks Commissioner Jim Nash, County Commissioner Michael Spisz, County Executive Dave Coulter, Stencil, Parks Commission Vice Chairman J. David VanderVeen, Parks Director Chris Ward, County Commissioner Marcia Gershenson, and County Commissioner Bob Hoffman. Photos: Matt Mackinder