Pool supervisor lands in dream job after nearly opting for next best thing

Sean C. Morgan

A. Jay Bronson earned a degree and went to work as a teacher so he could be a swim coach.

After years of teaching, Bronson, 30, landed a job in Sweet Home where he could spend all of his time at work around swimming.

Bronson started work as the new pool supervisor on July 1, replacing Gretchen Dougherty who left to pursue a master’s degree in education at Eastern Oregon University.

He grew up in Sedona, Ariz., and graduated from Sedona Red Rock High School, where he swam all four years. He attended Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, where he swam for a year.

“When I was a kid, I wasn’t the most graceful, and I wasn’t really the biggest kid either,” Bronson said. He found his place in the pool, and swimming grew into a lifelong passion.

A bout with bacterial meningitis ended his collegiate swimming career and he returned to Arizona to attend Northern Arizona University, where he began coaching the club team’s women’s program. That developed into full-time coaching.

He obtained his teaching license and went to work at his own high school in Sedona. He spent the past eight years teaching English, government and history, and coached the high school and swim club teams.

Bronson said he and his wife, Bailey Bronson, were worried about their future as teachers in Sedona. The state of teaching in Arizona is rough, and Sedona, a small but popular tourist town about the size of Sweet Home, has a shrinking population. They weren’t certain their jobs would exist in 10 years.

“My wife is originally from eastern Oregon, Elgin,” Bronson said. “We were looking for someplace we could have permanent jobs, start a family and raise kids.”

With family in Elgin, they’re near enough to visit and far enough away, Bronson said. Bailey accepted a job in Mill City teaching high school history and English. The couple lives in Stayton, between their jobs, Bronson said, although they’re looking for a more central location.

Bronson got into teaching because he loves swimming. Moving to Oregon, He wanted to stay involved in coaching when he discovered the connection it creates with youths, but coaching alone wouldn’t pay the bills. So he started applying for teaching jobs, dropping applications around the Willamette Valley.

Then he saw the pool supervisor position open up in Sweet Home, and with it, he could “still have that interaction with students,” Bronson said. It was his dream job.

He applied and was relieved by the rejection from another school where he applied to teach made him glad – because the responsible thing to do is to accept a job offer and he would have missed out on this job.

So far, Bronson has enjoyed working in Sweet Home, he said. “So far everyone is incredibly friendly and supportive.”

The town has a great work ethic, and is supportive of the local option levy that funds the pool, passing it by a 2-1 margin five years ago. He looks at projects like the Husky Field artificial turf, built by donations of in-kind labor and equipment and cash, and “it seems like a great place.”

As the new pool supervisor, his goal is “to keep it open a lot longer and offer more programs,” Bronson said. It’s a community pool, and he wants to add more time for water aerobics, master swimming, lap swimming and more – to let people swim and use it.

The pool has expanded swim sessions across the board throughout August, including weekends, Bronson said. If people like it, and it’s financially viable, he hopes the pool can keep the schedule going.

“We have it,” Bronson said. “We own it. Why don’t we use it?”

Bronson also wants to restore a school program in which every child receives swimming lessons during the school year, he said, noting the large number of lakes and bodies of water in the area. His goal is to ensure they are safe in the water.