This month Cosme “Coz” Sisneros celebrates his 43rd year with the Montrose Recreation District (MRD.) At 66, Sisneros’ life has been a tale of hard work and good fortune. His energy and enthusiasm have only enhanced his natural abilities.
He was born in Hotchkiss, in Delta County. His father worked on a farm and ranch in Hotchkiss and Sisneros was expected to work on the farm as well. The kids weren’t paid—it was just part of farm life.
“But it taught us a work ethic,” he said. “We fed livestock, my brothers and I, we milked cows, slopped hogs. The farmer’s kids were the same way; everyone pulled their weight. There are not the same expectations of the kids now —we had chores. Now they want to be paid to do those things.”
The family moved to Olathe where his father became a farmer in his own right. As a high school boy, Sisneros was paid for his labor.
From the time he was in junior high he wanted to be a schoolteacher. He was planning to go to Western State, when, out of the blue, he got a call from the Univ. of Colorado, Boulder. They said they were recruiting minority students with a good GPA and the ability to apply themselves. They offered him a scholarship for the first year. He jumped at the chance and graduated in 1975 with a degree in physical education, and a minor in history.
Back home in Montrose, he found teaching jobs were scarce. He applied to all the area school districts, but fate would intervene. He didn’t know it yet, but Coz Sisneros wasn’t meant to be a schoolteacher.
He stumbled on a small, old building across the street from City Hall on S. 1st Street. A wooden sign established it as the Montrose Recreation District. He had never seen this building, but just walked in and applied for a job. “I knew about recreation because I worked in the Rec Department at C.U. the whole time I was there,” he said. “We built a new rec center while I was there.”
David Burke was the the Rec Director. It just so happened that the baseball director had just quit. Burke asked if he knew anything about baseball. And would he also mow the lawns and do the irrigation? “I can do that,” Sisneros replied.
And, like they said in the movie, “Casablanca,” this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
He started the following Monday, and has worked for the MRD ever since. Sisneros feels great about being at this job for more than four decades.
“The reason why I wanted to go into education in the first place was because I had a great mentor back in junior high in Hotchkiss, Mr. Don Tate. I saw what kind of impact he had on kids—he listened to you, he was there for you. I wanted to have that kind of impact on kids and children. And I can have that in Parks and Recreation. Also, I wanted to be of service to my community.”
Sisneros still feels a deep connection with teachers. “School teachers have such difficult jobs—nowadays even more difficult than ever. And they don’t pay them enough for the hours they put in.
He’s received much gratification from his decades on the job. “I’ve done about everything in Parks and Rec that you can do—from youth sports to adult sports to general interest classes.”
Some of his favorite memories include running the Old Timers League baseball program and the Pigtail Softball program for girls. It was not unfamiliar to him. “I’d run a league in college on a bigger scale with college students in intramurals. I knew I could set up the program and the schedules. But I was not prepared to deal with the adults—the coaches, the parents, and their expectations. It made me realize it was very important to them. But I ran the program as I saw it needed to be run. I gave it the organization, the structure. All else had to fall into place.”
He gets a little emotional when he reminisces about the connections he’s made with those parents and those kids and seeing them grow up through the programs. “Five-year-olds, ten-year-olds. I coached them along with my kids.”
His wife, Vivian, has worked for Montrose County for 20-plus years. They have a son and two grandsons in Westminster. Their daughter has three kids and lives in Olathe.
Sisneros’ official title is Manager over Operations and Recreation Programming. He oversees both sides.”I’m the conduit between both—for the maintenance of the buildings to the fields and the outdoor facilities to our programming staff.
“We’ve come a long way, baby,” he says, laughing. “From that old house to the McNeil offices by Riverbottom Park, to the offices at the Aquatic Center, to the current facility.”
“This Rec Center is such an asset to the community in many different ways,” he added. “It’s not just about the physical activity we provide. It’s a social thing too. It’s social services in a fun way. It brings families and friends together.”