By BRIDGET BURKE
USFSP Student Reporter
SEMINOLE – After supervising an Easter egg hunt at the Seminole Recreation Department several years ago, Becky Gunter took the hand of the Easter Bunny to lead him to safety.
That’s when she heard a small voice behind her.
“Daddy, this is the best day of my life,” said a 4-year-old girl.
That assessment, Gunter says, was all the confirmation she needed that she had chosen the right career.
“I feel like a fish out of water at events when I’m not doing anything,” she said.
As recreation director for the city of Seminole since 2012, Gunter and a staff of 16 oversee programs for people of all ages, from daily activities for families to holiday events for the community.
“My job truly varies every day,” said Gunter, 39. “Some days I am working on day-to-day operations and other times I am working on park design. I work with community partners on new events and programs and plan special projects for the city manager.”
Gunter was not always destined for a career in recreation, however.
At the University of West Florida, she got a bachelor’s degree in public relations, advertising and applied communication.
Rather than going home to Leesburg over the summers, Gunter worked in the Student Recreation Department at her school. By her junior year, she had worked in various roles and caught the attention of the director.
She was invited to attend a conference for the National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association, the leaders in collegiate recreation.
After seeing all the potential opportunities, Gunter said, she continued to work hard and learn as much as she could so she would be invited back to the conference the following year.
Gunter worked as often as she could to pay for her education. When she came home for Christmas break during her senior year, Gunter got word of an unpleasant present.
The house she and two roommates were renting was broken into, and everything was stolen. When Gunter returned to school, she knew she had to work harder than ever.
She was rewarded by being invited back to the NIRSA conference. This time, she was hoping to find a way to continue her education after graduating from UWF.
Receiving a financial offer she couldn’t refuse, Gunter pursued a graduate assistantship at the University of North Texas. She spent two years there and received a master’s degree in recreation administration.
Gunter did not like Texas and there were few career advancement opportunities there, so she moved back home to Florida. She worked in parks and recreation departments around the state until she finally landed the Seminole job.
Gunter has spent almost 20 years in recreation and has been in her current position for seven years.
As recreation director, Gunter can now escort the Easter Bunny whenever she likes.