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Westminster Stays Afloat During Regional Lifeguard Shortage

Westminster Stays Afloat During Regional Lifeguard Shortage

“I have never been in this situation before . . . this critically low spot,” said Joseph Harris, a recreation supervisor at City Park Recreation Center. “Even me or my supervisors and all the support staff, we usually just put a whistle on and a t-shirt and we’ll go fill in the gaps if we have to, but right now management is working almost all of their time on the deck with a whistle in their mouth. The managers are now lifeguards, so it’s never been this crazy.” 

Westminster is feeling the impacts of a lifeguard shortage in the Denver-Metro area. Like many of our neighboring communities, Westminster recreation centers are struggling to fill dozens of lifeguard positions.  Although managers and supervisors are all certified lifeguards, filling in for their teams on the pool deck is only a temporary solution. Harris says the City typically employs between 75 and 100 lifeguards at one time. However, right now there are only 25 to 30 lifeguards on staff. Recreation centers have been taking drastic measures to ensure the City can still offer high-quality service and amenities in a safe environment for our residents. Recreation Supervisor Joseph Harris poses inside the City Park Recreation Center swimming area

“Whenever you’re running pools, you’re always going to be short a couple lifeguards, and managers or supervisors are going to fill in gaps and make it work. But we’re at such a crucial level that even if managers and supervisors lifeguard the entire time, we still wouldn’t be able to open all our pools,” said Harris.  

With the current staffing levels, some pools at Westminster recreation centers are forced to close early, and others are not open at all, like the teaching pool at the Swim and Fitness Center. Ultimately, guests may be impacted most by the reduced capacity limits at pools. At the City’s flagship site, City Park Recreation Center, the capacity in the swimming area is usually 300 people. That number has dwindled down to as low as 50 people depending on the time of day. 

“We have to gauge our capacities and what we can provide to the public based off of what we can safely manage with our staff,” remarked Harris. With spring around the corner and summer on the horizon, lower capacity limits could carry into the warmer months, when pools are most popular. 

To lessen the negative impact to residents, City staff have been actively recruiting, attending job fairs, and marketing positions online and social media. Harris believes the lifeguard shortage is part of a larger shortage in frontline employees exacerbated by the pandemic. “It’s pretty rigorous competition between municipalities, HOAs, and outdoor pools and swim teams as well,” Harris pointed out. 

Although lifeguards have many opportunities to choose from in 2022, the City of Westminster has an edge up on the competition. In addition to competitive wages starting at $15 an hour, flexible hours, and perks like free facility passes, not every lifeguarding opportunity can lead to a lifelong career. Westminster is well-known for promoting employees and hiring up within the organization. Many staff who hold managerial or supervisor roles will tell you that they started out as an hourly employee at the City, some will even say they were a lifeguard. “It’s a great starting point for a great career,” Harris said. 

Lifeguard poses at City Park Recreation Center swimming poolDifferent than many municipalities, the City also pays for CPR and training for every lifeguard to prepare them for the job. “I think because we’re trained in CPR, basic saves and first aid, if an emergency situation does happen outside of work in the future, I know I would be comfortable saving someone,” said Olivia Davis, a lead lifeguard at the City. The 19-year-old has been serving the community at City pools for more than three years now. Although she and her fellow lifeguards are affected by the lifeguard shortage, Davis says the impacts are minimal and the job is still fun, social, and fulfilling. 

“Out of all the jobs I could have, I prefer this one. It’s a good group of people. It’s a pretty easy job. It’s a nice job to have while you’re in school and the pay is good compared to most places. I plan on staying here through college or at least the first few years,” Davis said. 

Lifeguards pose at City Park Recreation CenterFor anyone thinking about being a lifeguard, Davis’ advice for securing the job is simple. “Know how to swim, that’s a good one! Just know how to swim!” 

Davis’ supervisor Joseph Harris agrees. “That’s the main requirement, after that we’ll make a lifeguard out of you. We just want you on our team!” 

Are you interested in a lifeguard opportunity at the City of Westminster? Click here to apply for open lifeguard positions and more than 20 other positions in Westminster’s Parks, Recreation and Libraries Department. 

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