One day back in September, two of Elaine Dillahunt’s co-workers took her to lunch. It seemed kind of mysterious. “I thought they had this big scoop they needed to tell me,” Dillahunt says.

Well, there was a big scoop — the one about Dillahunt being recognized as aquatics manager for Indy Parks and Recreation. Lynn Hampton, park manager of Indy Island, and Sharyn Lakin, facility manager of LaShonna Bates Aquatic Facility, both of whom nominated Dillahunt, delivered the good news.

“She had this very shocked look, like ‘You’re kidding, right?’” Hampton says.

Interestingly, Dillahunt actually had been asked by her supervisor to submit an entry for one of Indianapolis’ 22 facilities that she oversees. But, being just so busy, she never got around to it.

“I get a lot of help,” Dillahunt says, diplomatically.

Indeed. Since she has become Indy’s aquatics manager in 1998, the staff has grown from 250 to 430, and the number of facilities she manages also has increased.

“We have added another head lifeguard at every facility — at some locations, two,” Dillahunt says, adding that she stresses “on-deck supervision.”

At a time when cities are freezing budgets or making cutbacks, Indy seems to be thriving. “We were able to get it through based on safety,” Dillahunt says of the extra personnel. “We’re fortunate. They [her supervisors] seem to understand aquatics and they definitely understand safety.”

Safety has been atop Dillahunt’s agenda since she arrived at Indy Parks as a recreation leader in 1983, straight out of Ball State University (“me and David Letterman,” she notes). As aquatics manager, Dillahunt started Operation Water Safety, teaching children proper behavior in and around the water.

Other programs have grown under Dillahunt’s leadership. Last summer’s Learn to Swim program had nearly 2,000 participants; the Indy Parks Swim Team has grown to nearly 600 participants and now continues year ’round.

Despite her accomplishments, Dillahunt is concerned that, being an award winner, she’s going to get a “hard time from her peers,” Hampton says.

A hard time?

“It all comes down to the fact that she thinks she’s just doing her job,” Hampton says. “She doesn’t want the accolades. But she goes above and beyond any supervisor I’ve ever had. She just doesn’t see it.”