Dream big is the message that Medford City Manager Brian Sjothun imparted to students at Kids Unlimited Academy.

Sjothun visited KUA public charter school Monday for a question-and-answer session with fourth graders in Mrs. Flora’s class and recognition by the school for his years of service with the city. Sjothun plans to retire at the end of this year after nearly 40 years in the public sector.

“I found that working in the public sector was a passion of mine,” Sjothun told students. “I’m excited to go to work every day.”

Among Sjothun’s chief passions — and greatest achievements — is completion of Medford’s Rogue Credit Union Community Complex. The state-of-the-art aquatics and events center that opened in January was a dream Sjothun started pursuing more than a decade ago when he served as Medford’s director of parks and recreation.

“One thing I’ll say about Mr. Sjothun,” said KU’s CEO Tom Cole, “is he had a dream to build something that nobody thought was possible.

“There were a lot of people who said we can’t build it; it shouldn’t happen.”

After years of strategizing, weighing public input and even failed funding efforts, the city got the green light on Rogue X. Construction wrapped up in late 2023 on the 75,000-square-foot facility that comprises eight basketball courts that can be converted for volleyball and pickleball. The largest aquatics venue in the region, Rogue X boasts a 6,000-square-foot recreational pool with two waterslides and outdoor splash pad, plus an adjacent 13-lane competition pool.

Medford City Manager Brian Sjothun speaks to a fourth-grade class at KUA.

Characterizing Rogue X as “40 years in the making,” Sjothun said he’ll continue to work with Medford’s parks and recreation foundation to raise funds that grant free admission to low-income Medford residents. Free swimming lessons for all Medford fourth-graders is among the city’s initiatives. KUA Director of Education Lupita Vargas is pursuing free swimming lessons for all students, Cole told students.

Likening city government to a school, its departments similar to grade cohorts, Sjothun encouraged students to do well in math. Sports, he said, gave him a basis for working effectively with people. A Sacramento native, Sjothun was the starting quarterback on his high school football team as a sophomore and also played basketball. After moving with his family to Woodburn, he attended Chemeketa Community College in Salem and Warner Pacific University in Portland.

The city’s next big project is replacing its fire station near North Medford High School, one of five. Students were more interested in the advent of Chuck E. Cheese on East Barnett Road. When the city reaches 100,000 population, Sjothun told students, it will attract many more of their favorite chain restaurants and nationwide retailers. The city’s population is approximately 85,500.