Angelica Sanchez has never met Todd Hoffman, but she admires him.
Rick Ashley says he’d like to shake Hoffman’s hand for his countless contributions to the City of Chanhassen.
Sanchez and Ashley were two of many recently enjoying activities at Lake Ann Park.
Hoffman retires at the end of July as the city’s parks and recreation director, having worked for the community more than 33 years.
He has been a leader in the development of the community’s impressive parks, playgrounds and trail system, as well as spearheading the overall growth of recreational activities and opportunities.
Hoffman, 57, prefers to redirect any credit to community organizations, leaders, citizens and neighborhood groups, but members of those entities quickly funnel their accolades toward Hoffman.
“We have enjoyed the parks, beaches and trails since moving here, so I have to thank Mr. Hoffman for that,” Sanchez said. “I have a lot of admiration for someone who can have a department that has done such wonderful things for the community.”
“If he was here, I would shake his hand to congratulate him for how great the city is for playgrounds, trails and just a nice place to raise kids,” Ashley said, adding that he has children who participate in a number of athletic events and utilize various parks. “I hope he knows how much his efforts are appreciated by people like us.”
City Recreation Superintendent Jerry Ruegemer, who is replacing Hoffman, has worked with Hoffman 30 years and hopes in multiple respects to emulate him.
“Todd is a great public employee who has always had the public’s interest at heart,” Ruegemer said. “He’s brought to the city a passion to do what’s best for the citizens of Chanhassen.
“He was a great visionary and when I look back to the infant stages of park development and the parks and trail system, he was integral in getting all that put together,” Ruegemer added. “He is very enthusiastic and very positive; and has been a great mentor to me through the years, making me a better employee and person.”
The city, as of 2019, has 46 athletic fields, 24 neighborhood parks, 28 playgrounds, 528 acres of open space, five swimming beaches, 65 miles of trails and many, many more amenities.
“I will miss the people; the opportunities to make more connections and engagements with people,” said Hoffman, who with his wife Liz have moved to the New Ulm area. “I will miss all the project ideas; the improvement concepts and working with so many wonderful people on trying to make them happen.”
Hoffman, recognized for his positive outlook and high energy level, says he has thousands of favorite memories, particularly watching countless ball games and seeing so many people enjoying various activities.
“I’d watch the games, but what was happening on the sidelines was just as important; where parents and friends would gather,” he said. “It’s that kind of social connectiveness that parks and recreation creates in a community that is so critically important.”
Hoffman, a native of Mankato, said it has been “exhilarating to live and work here because of the growth,” adding that the parks and recreation department “is in good hands” with Ruegemer.
Hoffman has watched public attitude about trails and green space change over the years.
“When we first started trails, developers didn’t want them; residents didn’t want them, but once they were built and it was shown how much people enjoyed them, then most everyone wanted them,” he said. “The parks and trail system have become vital to the quality of life in Chanhassen.”
Hoffman credits community response and direction for positive changes in the community, citing, in part, the development of dirt bike trails and the skate park. He said neighborhoods took ownership of playgrounds in their areas because they were involved in the selection and construction aspects.
“The great thing about Chanhassen is it was all accomplished with the ideas of the citizenry,” Hoffman said, noting that the Park Commission is vital in projecting the desires of the community. “We did things, supported things that the community wanted. It has been a ‘How can we make this happen?’ effort from so many.”
Todd Gerhardt, recently retired city manager, called Hoffman “a good leader. He was quick to analyze situations and make decisions. That is his strength and he is usually right.”
Former mayor Tom Furlong said Hoffman “always had the best interests of the city in mind. He organized a long-term vision for the city’s parks and trails and was very instrumental in incrementally achieving that vision. He was always focused on the public’s use and enjoyment of the natural areas we have as well as providing the amenities people were looking for.”
Tim Mulcrone of the local Rotary Club, called Hoffman a close friend and a man of quality character, “a man that doesn’t waste a nanosecond in getting to the solution side of a problem. He doesn’t seek or waste time grumbling. He is remarkable that way.”
Mulcrone recalled being with Hoffman, an avid outdoorsman, during a duck hunting adventure when a trailing boat landed on top of the boat Mulcrone and Hoffman were in, sending both men scattering for safety.
“When it all came to a stop, Todd looks at it, doesn’t yell at the other boat driver, but instead, the first thing he said was ‘How are we going to get this boat off of here?’ That tells you a lot about Todd,” Mulcrone said.
Hoffman is uncertain of his next path in life, adding: “I will continue to support my children and family, and get involved with community organizations. There will be a new opportunity somewhere. I love accomplishing things; I just need to find the right place to do those things.”