SIOUX CENTER—During the summer, longtime Sioux Center Parks Department seasonal employee Jamie Dolieslager can typically be found at one of the many colorful flower beds that line Highway 75.
Bringing these splashes of color to town is a job she’s been grateful to have since starting in her youth, and it continually brings her back to town every summer from her home in Circle Pines, MN.
Her work with flower and landscape maintenance brings her to the flower beds in front of the Sioux Center United Reformed Church, Perspective Insurance, the Netherlands Reformed Church, White Oak Station, B&B Plumbing & Heating, the Sioux Center Public Library, Bethel Christian Reformed Church, Snieder Insurance & Financial and the flower pots at the sidewalk in front of Centre Mall.
Beyond those many spots along Highway 75, she tends to all of Memorial Gardens Cemetery, all of Children’s Park, out front of the New Homestead and Central Park. There are other smaller landscaping spots throughout town that the city and Dolieslager cares for.
For most of the year, she lives in Circle Pines, which is north of Minneapolis and St. Paul. While in Minnesota, she works at Bethel University as an associate professor of athletic training.
But every summer she comes down to her native Sioux Center home to help tend to the city’s flora.
The 44-year-old grew up on a dairy farm, which was located where the Shell Sioux-Per Center and McDonald’s is now. From her youngest days, Dolieslager enjoyed being outside and working. Her family always had a large garden where they grew vegetables.
“Both of my grandparents grew gardens and canned,” she said. “My parents had five kids, and that’s how they fed us. What we grew in the farm and in that garden is what fed our family.”
She continues to garden at her Circle Pines home, though the garden is small.
Whether it’s her own garden or about the flower beds of Sioux Center, Dolieslager is always thinking a season or two ahead.
“I’m the weird person in the wintertime who’s looking at garden plots and plans and trying to figure out what soil amendment is better,” Dolieslager said. “When I send my soil tests in and get them back in January, I’m excited for spring.”
The reason she returns to Sioux Center every summer is simple. The first is because, as an educator, she needs the summer job. But that’s hardly the only reason. A lot of it comes down to Sioux Center itself.
“There is no place like Sioux Center, Iowa,” she said. “There is no place where you meet the people like the people you meet here. This is a beautiful community. Living in the city, I think I’ve learned to appreciate that even more.”
Dolieslager has worked for the Sioux Center Parks Department since her high school days. She wasn’t even old enough to drive her way to work yet at the time, so she’d drive an old car to the edge of her family’s farmland and walk the rest of the way to the department’s workshop to begin her day’s work.
From the start, she was granted flexibility around her schedule. Back then, she needed that flexibility because she was in high school softball.
She continued to come back to the job during her summers while attending Buena Vista University in Storm Lake and going through graduate school. It was the job that just stuck with her through the years.
For many years, her job with the parks department had her working at Sandy Hollow Recreation Area, but when the city sold that property, it was suggested she try out flowers instead.
“It was hard giving up the grass. My first love is turf,” Dolieslager said. “I’m a little infatuated with grass, so it was hard giving up the mowing and the trimming and the beautification part of the parks.”
The flexibility around her schedule is still there, and it’s something she appreciates.
“Most people have their flowers in by the 15th of May, but Lee (Van Meeteren, Sioux Center Parks Department director) is willing to wait until I can get here to let me put them in,” she said.
Typically, she looks at what flowers and other plants to order the preceding fall. Even now, she’s looking at different combinations that could be put together for next spring.
She doesn’t have a favorite flower; rather, she likes to play around with how different flowers look in different arrangements and combinations. She’s more mindful of plant textures than colors, she said.
“Our parks wouldn’t look as pretty if all you planted were maple trees. It’s the variety,” Dolieslager said. “I like trying new things. I’m always pushing the limits to try new things.”
If anything, she isn’t good with color combinations, she said, so she will frequently ask her sister or niece for some input or feedback on her plans.
Going to different cities, she likes to see what they do for flowers, just to compare and see if she can make any improvements in Sioux Center.
“I’m from Sioux County; I want it better. I want to do better than that,” she said.
There is a legacy behind the work she does here. There is a history of men and women who’ve helped make this possible, people who’ve worked and led the parks department and mentored her.
As she pursues her doctorate, she’s finding a way to merge both her full-time work at Bethel and her summer job: the impact of turf on concussions.
“What we’re learning in concussion research right now is that the majority of concussions are happening because heads are hitting the ground,” Dolieslager said. “It’s not head-to-head contact like we think of in football. The majority of women who get concussions in soccer are happening from head-to-turf contact.”
As far as she can tell, not much research has been done on the connection of turf and field and concussion severity, and there are no regulations in place for the hardness of playing fields. She hopes to give a presentation on some of her findings at a turf conference early next year.
She’s grateful for the people who’ve helped her and the thanks she gets for her work with the flowers and plants along Highway 75.
“There’s no greater satisfaction than a job well done,” she said. “When people can acknowledge that, that’s everything to me.”