Meet Nicole Otjens: Director of La Jolla Rec Center

Editor’s note: Welcome to La Jolla Light’s new feature “People in the Neighborhood,” a series that will shine a spotlight on notable local we all wish we knew more about! Light staff is out on the town talking to familiar, friendly faces to bring their stories. If you know someone you’d like us to profile through “People in the Neighborhood,” send the lead via e-mail to editor@lajollalihgt.com or call us at (858) 875-5950.

Nicole Otjens, director of the La Jolla Rec Center, has lived in and around Rec Centers her entire life. “I was a ‘Rec kid,’ my grandparents had a house across the street from South Clairemont Recreation Center, so I always went there after school almost every day,” Otjens said.

At age 20 she put her application in to start working for Rec Centers, and has been doing so ever since, the last three and a half years as center director in La Jolla. The 38-year-old, who describes herself as a “people’s pleaser,” has worked in 12 different Rec Centers in San Diego County, and said she would like to work for the service until she retires.

How do you like the La Jolla Rec Center?

“There’s always something new, something different, the community here is different. Some Rec Centers have 2-3 events a year, if that, we have 8 or 10, every month there’s always another event happening. I enjoy it here, it keeps you on your toes, you stay on top of things, give your staff some tasks, delegate, otherwise you give too much of yourself.”

What are your memories as a kid in the Rec Center?

“I liked the events, I liked going to egg hunts, they were my favorite, I liked seeing everybody different ages go. You don’t know how much effort and time takes to put on an event, until you are actually the person putting it on. You think that an event takes like a day or two, it takes 2-4 months to get everything together.”

What do you do when you are not at the Rec Center?

“I take dance lessons with the Park and Rec department, Wednesday night at Balboa Park and I’m in the San Diego Civic Dance Association. I love (dancing), I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. Even though it’s with city, I don’t get paid or anything, I volunteer my time, but I like to do it. It’s my fun time. My other fun time, if I’m not doing that is visit family or friends. I have a boyfriend who works for the Park & Recreation Department of the city as well, we have been together for a year and a half. His name is Ricardo and we met at a city function.

And then if I’m not doing any of that I go to Disneyland. When I’m stressed out, that’s my getaway place.”

What type of dancing do you like?

“It depends on the song, and the choreography, I think I’m usually more of a tap-funk. I like everything but I can do a little bit of funk-jazz with a little hip hop with it.”

What are your future plans?

“I’m planning on in the near future maybe applying to Center Director III, which is a bigger site, a bigger facility, area, and more responsibility. . And I’m going to see if my boyfriend and I are going to get married in the next year or so. Who knows? We are not officially engaged at this point, but we are going to see what happens down the road.”

What’s a dream of yours?

“I would to be a dance teacher one day, I used to teach it when I was in my early twenties for five or six years. If there was a full time dancing teacher position, I’d momentarily ask to be transferred over.”

What do you like the most and the least about your job?

“I like having everybody enjoy parks. Also, training my staff so I can delegate. I like working with people and showing my passion for park and recreation. I really don’t like getting bugged .When I’m off, I like to be off.”

What is something that La Jollans don’t know about you and you would like them to?

“I think who I am as a person, because they know me as a worker, ‘This is Nicole, and she takes complaints and takes care of this,’ but I’m an enjoyable person, I enjoy life. I make changes, of course you can’t change yourself or change others but ‘m willing to take on people’s concerns or changes, easy tasks and challenges and make them bigger and better.”

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