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Manager finds skills overlap from finance to park system

Kelly Klasnick manages the Caledonia State Park Complex.
Kelly Klasnick manages the Caledonia State Park Complex. - (Photo / )

Kelly Klasnick was interested early in the complexity and interconnectedness of financial markets.

If an incident occurs in the Middle East, for example, it causes the price of oil to spike, which then causes gasoline prices at the pump to spike.

"Well, now, all of a sudden something that is 8,000 miles away has impacted you on an everyday basis," said Klasnick, who pursued his interest in college and earned a degree in finance from Duquesne University.

But he's since made a swing to a different career path.

Klasnick became manager of the Caledonia State Park Complex this fall. The complex comprises Caledonia State Park along Route 30 between Chambersburg and Gettysburg and nearby Mont Alto State Park.

"I've always been a person who enjoyed my time outdoors with the natural resources that we are so fortunate to have in Pennsylvania and beyond," he said. "I take a lot of pride in working with the staff here to be able to make those opportunities available to people."

People are surprised when he tells them that many of the skills from his finance career, during which he was a supervisor and manager, cross over to his job today.

One skill set is working with employees. Although some adjustment might be required, in the end people are people, Klasnick said.

"You have to apply those (skills) whether you're working in an office at a financial services firm or at a state park," he said.

Another commonality is customer-relations skills, Klasnick said. He had clients when he worked in financial services, of course, and now he looks at park visitors as customers. They have a choice of where to spend their time and he wants them to come to the park.

To him, even the subjects of finance and nature have parallels.

"The more you increase your understanding of how one part of nature is reliant upon another and how, if you change one aspect of a natural environment, you are going to be impacting other aspects … when you're cognizant of some of those interconnections, it makes you appreciate your time outdoors a bit more," Klasnick said.

David Kemmerer said people from a variety of professions used to come up to him when he worked in the field to say they'd like to work in a park. But not many people actually make the move, said Kemmerer, director of the bureau of state parks within DCNR.

Kemmerer himself made a transition from a business-focused discipline — but much earlier in the process. During his junior year in college, he switched his major from accounting to a parks and recreation focus.

But his proficiency with budget work, which he called "an art and a science," has helped him over the years, and Klasnick's experience is helpful for him as well.

"I wouldn't say we don't have enough money, but it's always a challenge to make it stretch to do what you want to do," Kemmerer said.

For about 12 years, Klasnick had worked for a large financial services firm in the Pittsburgh area, where he grew up.

When restructuring hit several years ago, he had an opportunity to stay with the company but instead decided it was a good time for a change.

"I just really made a conscious decision to really align my professional life a little bit more closely with some of the passions I had in my personal life," Klasnick said. "And a lot of those passions revolved around not only resource management but recreation."

Klasnick said he had always "kept a hand" in the natural resource side of his interests, such as volunteering for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in a land stewardship program.

The intensive volunteer experience included workshops and was his formal introduction to resource management, Klasnick said.

Klasnick started his career with DCNR as a seasonal environmental education specialist charged with leading public and school groups through educational programming. He's worked his way up to his current post.

In addition to his bachelor's degree in finance, Klasnick has a master's degree in park and resource management from Slippery Rock University.

Jeffrey Anna, regional manager for the park system's Region 2 in western Pennsylvania, watched Klasnick come up through the ranks. Klasnick's managerial experience in finance affords him a different view in the state parks system compared with people who come from the more typical managerial backgrounds, Anna said.

"I think (at) the next level, his 'other world' could be extremely valuable as he works up into the system in the state park system, taking on higher-level management tasks," Anna said.

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