Some folks are detail-oriented; others focus on the big picture. Nicole Van Winkle does both, making her a godsend for aquatics facilities.

As account executive and project manager for St. Louis-based Counsilman-Hunsaker, she excels in bringing new facilities to life. She can ascertain their many needs, from buildings and programs to staffing, and coolly brings it all together in time for opening — sometimes at record speed. Once she had just four months. “They had no programs; we had to hire 100 people. We had to build [a facility] that operated correctly in a very short amount of time,” she recalls.

Van Winkle started out as a lifeguard during college. “I fell in love with the ability to build a career in service to others,” she says.

She earned a Master’s in recreation and tourist management from California State University, Northridge, then became a recreation specialist, managing 120 swim instructors and lifeguards, handling the budget and programming.

She took that expertise to Counsilman-Hunsaker to help it launch a program working with facilities to train and manage lifeguards, help with operations and to open facilities. “We saw rectangular pools being replaced with waterpark attraction-type pools,” Van Winkle says. “I could help them open, train staff and oversee these more high-risk pools.”

She takes on such tasks as bringing older pools to like-new condition, or working with facilities from the ground up. As part of the bargain, she often trains site management personnel.

“I truly enjoy making a cohesive brand and developing first-time supervisors,” she says. “They’re responsible for the facility, which is why they must be so well-trained.”

Van Winkle’s career path recently took another turn, after she became recreation services manager with the city of Colton, Calif. But she still works for Counsilman-Hunsaker part-time.