HOME on the LAKE

Marion native Isaac Hett has worked at a lodge in Alaska, been fishing in southern Mexico and in Thailand, but he’s come home to Marion County to take his first full-time job.

Hett was confirmed recently by county commissioners to be the next superintendent for Marion County Park and Lake. His first day on the job was Monday.

“I am excited to get started,” Hett said during a recent interview. “With every career you’re going to have your issues, but that’s all right. I’m ready to get started.”

The son of Jerry and Loreen Hett, Isaac graduated from Marion High School in 2010 and enrolled at Kansas State University.

“My first year there I was majoring in business management, then I switched over to a newer program called Wildlife Outdoor Enterprise Management,” he said.

“With that, you had to have a business minor. So I took a soils course, a water resource management course, fresh-water fishing and big-game hunting—it was a really cool program.”

Alaskan adventure

Hett’s program required a six-month internship during his senior year at an approved site. Hett found his niche at Tower Rock Lodge in Alaska.

“I did my six-month internship there, returned to Kansas State, and had to do a business plan for my last semester. That’s all I had left to do.”

Hett graduated from KSU in spring 2015. Two days after the ceremony, he was back at the Alaskan lodge.

“I absolutely loved being up there,” he said. “The only hard part was I did it seasonal, from May until October. Then I had six months to try to figure out what I should do before we go back up.”

Two years ago he braved the Alaskan winter to serve as manager of the lodge with the encouragement of his boss and got to stay there for free.

During his seasonal stays at the lodge, guests would often ask him what the Alaskan winters are like.

“I always told them, ‘I’ve heard its pretty brutal.’” he said. “It was nice to get that actual experience.”

Last summer he went back to Alaska to work with guys with whom he had previously worked.

“The guys I work with go up there and make their money and then spend the rest of the time traveling,” Hett said.

“So I went down to Mexico to a little fishing village right along the Belize border,” he said. “I was down there a month with a guy I had worked with, and we did a bunch of fishing down there.”

In February, Hett traveled to Thailand.

“One of the guys I worked with had a condo over there,” he said. “I think there wer six of us who were over there at the same time. We were there for a little over a month. We did a lot of fishing there, too.”

As soon as he came back, he went back up to Alaska.

“I was up there last year from about mid-March, and I just got back in October.”

Returning home

So, what drew Hett back to Marion County after experiencing his adventures in more exotic surroundings?

“All my family’s here,” he replied. “I have a big family, and that was important to me. I have a little brother in high school now and he’s going to be a senior this year.

“Being away is an awesome thing to do. It’s a great experience, but at the same time I do miss home.

“Everywhere’s different, and it’s all fun,” he said. “I think Kansas is a lot easier-going. It’s just the way life is here, and it’s something growing up with that you miss.”

Marion County Lake

Even as a youth, Marion County Lake was a significant experience for Hett.

“I spent a lot of time fishing out here with my dad, back when Dale Snelling was running it,” he said. “Then Steve Hudson had a son, Brady Hudson, who was in my class, so we were pretty good friends. I knew Steve pretty well.”

When Hett returned to Kansas in October, he saw that the superintendent position was open.

“I was interested in the job, but I was never sure of all the things that go into it,” Hett said.

It turned out that his experiences in other settings, such as property payments, budgeting and bookkeeping, will serve him well in his new role.

Hett was excited to learn that Kansas State University is currently conducting a program at the lake.

The commissioners told him KSU was testing soil and water issues with the goal of improving the annual blue-green algae situation at the lake.

“That’s going to be very interesting to hear what they have to say,” Hett said. “I’m excited to get that report in May, then we can go from there. I know blue-green algae has been a big problem.”

People skills

Hett knows his involvement at the lake will take him beyond natural issues such as water quality and fish species. An important part of his job is relating to the residents who live at the lake, seasonally and year round.

“I’m a pretty open person,” Hett said. “I’m open to suggestions and anything like that. I’m always ready to listen to hear what people have to say, and take it into consideration.

“I know it’s not going to be easy. Not everybody sees eye to eye,” he added. “Some people want it done one way, others want another thing. You’ve just got to hear both sides and then do what you think best.

“If you don’t talk about it, it just gets worse and worse, and it will turn into a bigger issue than it should be.”

Hett said he’s grateful to be able to start the job before the summer season push is underway. Like superintendents before him, Hett will be living at the lake in a provided house.

He also anticipates the extracurricular events that are part of the summer season.

“I’m excited for what happens out here, like the bluegrass festival and the chili feed,” he said. “Normally they have a crappie fishing derby here in March. I don’t know if we’re going to get it in this year—that started after I left.”