Washington Evening Journal
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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 25, 2014

Even has been smiling every day

By David Hotle | May 02, 2014
Mark Even

While Mark Even only took his position of Washington County park ranger earlier this week, he said that he has been smiling every day he has been at work.
Growing up in Bellevue, Even was the seventh of 11 siblings. He attended Kirkwood to study criminal justice. He has worked for conservation boards in Johnson and Scott counties as both a ranger and in maintenance. He has also worked as a police officer in West Liberty and a parks worker in Muscatine.
He and his wife, Syrena, have two daughters, Jacklyn and Raquel, and one son, Dakota.

What brings you to Washington County?
It is a nice location and I am impressed with what the conservation board here has done not only with its parks but its set-aside land. It is more of the actual conservation practices. When I worked for Scott County, because of where I worked at West Lake Park, because it was on the border of Davenport, it was almost like a city park. There were some conservation practices we did. We turned a soybean field back into a prairie. We put in basins and planted some nursery stock. From the looks of what Steve (Anderson) has done out here, he has gone full bore compared to what we were doing there. There are a lot of activities — lake reconstructions, trails, horse trails … everything. This is what I call conservation.

Why did you decide to get back into conservation?
I missed it a lot. When I went to college for law enforcement, my roommate’s dad was the park ranger in Brighton at the time. I changed my degree from business management to criminal justice so I could be a park ranger. I followed that from the beginning, trying to find that park ranger job that fit right. Scott County was a great location, but the travel was a problem.

What are the differences between being a park ranger and a police officer?
They are both the same, but to be a park ranger the big thing is PR (public relations). That is the joke about being a park ranger is the initials are PR. You need to be able to work with the public, answer questions, assist when they need it, but be able to control situations in a law enforcement standpoint. To be able to do it as a police officer you have to have the skills, but it is that extra how you handle yourself with the public. You are not just going out to stop crimes, you are assisting with things, like campers with questions and concerns.

What do you think of Washington County so far?
Beautiful. I’ve been to just four of the parks so far and the overlooks, the views, the trails, the valleys, the parks and the wetlands that have been created are just fantastic. The other conservation boards I have worked for are nowhere the extent that Washington County has.

What do you hope to accomplish while you are here?
Continue what is going on, from the looks of it. It looks as if Steve has been at this for 30 years and from what I have seen from the wetlands, the wooded areas and the timber stand improvements, this is what conservation is all about. That is what I would like to continue to carry on into the future. This is a beautiful place. I have told Steve it is tough not to smile every day. I’ve had a smile for the first few days, and I hope it continues.

What are some of your hobbies?
Golf. When you become a police officer, you really don’t have time for golf. When I got the maintenance job, it took a lot of time as well. I have had my hole in one in life and I have had my double eagle in life. Fishing is one of my passions. I do a little archery, but no hunting. We camp; my wife and I have a camper. We have three kids; the two oldest ones are in college.

What is your philosophy of being a park ranger?
Like any situation it is respect both ways. You have to respect everybody’s situation. You don’t come in with an attitude. They train at the academy it is easier to escalate when you need to than to come down from starting out too hot and fast. You are going to present yourself in a calm and fashionable manner to keep everybody else in a calm manner. If you come in hot, you are only going to escalate quickly; it is going to be hard to defuse the situation. If you respect them, they are going to realize they should respect you at the same time.

What’s the future look like? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
That is a good question. Here, from the looks of it. It is a beautiful facility and the park system itself throughout the county itself is a beautiful county. I love the rolling hills. I grew up in Bellevue, so there are lots of hills. I grew up in the higher hills of Iowa. Where we live now is pretty much flat. I have always liked having a place for the kids to ski or sled. We always had to travel to those locations and here it is right outside your door.

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