I didn’t care much for Parks and Recreation during its first season. It just seemed like it was trying too hard to be a different flavor of The Office, just with less Steve Carell more Amy Poehler.

I stuck with it though, because really, when the landscape of network television is as bleak as the Mad Max wasteland, what else are you gonna do? I’m glad I did, too. Because I ended up loving it.

The show found its footing as the seasons progressed, and Leslie Knope went from being an even more obnoxious and unlikable version of that kid in school who always reminded the teacher when she forgot to assign homework, to a relatable, heartwarming character who truly cared about the fictional people of the also-fictional Pawnee, Indiana. I was sad when the show was over.

Then I moved to Lake Charles, and realized we have our own Leslie over here. Amanda Johnson is the Area Supervisor for the City of Lake Charles Recreation and Parks Department, and I’m pretty sure she’s just a southern version of Amy Poehler. Or at least Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope.

Or maybe she’s nothing at all like that character. I don’t know. I’ve never met the woman.

But she just received the Outstanding Young Professional Award for leadership, dedication and professionalism at the Louisiana Recreation and Parks state conference, so yeah. I’m thinking she’s a Leslie Knope.

Plus, I’ve seen her work.

(L-R) Trudy Gehrig, Clorinda Mitchell, Retta Easton, Amanda Johnson, Asst. Director Helen Lewis, Director Percy Brown and Mayor Randy Roach

The Lake Charles Recreation and Parks Department - apart from being hard for me to wrap my head around because I feel like Parks should go first - is top notch. I came here from a city that always kinda/sorta tried to have an active Parks and Recreation (or Recreation and Parks) Department, but it never really got off the ground.

Honestly, they did their best, but almost every event they tried to pull off was just met with apathy and disdain because I don’t know why. Maybe they just didn’t have the magic of a great office staff. Maybe they needed a Leslie Knope. Maybe I don’t care because I don’t even live there anymore.

I live here now, in Lake Charles.

Where I can:

  • Go watch Movies in the Park when they’re happening on Friday nights
  • Go listen to live concerts for free during Downtown at Sundown
  • Register my kid for any of the great summer camps, where he can go bowling, skating, swimming, or a whole huge list of other activities
  • Go learn how to quilt, if I really want to

All of our city parks - all 27 of them - are great places. They’re all properly maintained, with all of the amenities any park ever needs. We have large, open parks and small playground parks. Boat launches, picnics, and athletic parks. We have everything here, and I love it.

Whether our parks are so great because we have our own Leslie Knope, or if the people of this city are just eager for public activities in great, clean spaces, it doesn’t really matter.

What matters is that we have a great Parks Department.

I just thought you guys should know.