I want to take a moment to recognize and thank some dedicated people in the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department and elsewhere in our city who make Seattle’s Park system work. These folks won Seattle Management Association (SMA) Excellence in Management awards last week:
- Park Rangers, led by Brock Milliern, for Management in the Field;
- Karen O’Connor, for Management Support;
- Community Centers Statement of Legislative Intent Work Group, in Project Management.
Park Rangers. Seattle’s Park Rangers patrol our city’s most heavily used downtown parks, always unarmed, treating park users espectfully and with dignity. They offer assistance, information, and a helping hand wherever possible.
During the past weeks, the rangers have played a crucial but very low-profile role in maintaining public safety, working with SPD and protestors alike, often into the wee hours of the morning, always staying true to their sometimes complicated mission to maintain open and inclusive parks for all people, communicate and enforce park regulations, and protect the free speech rights of protestors.
Even when they’re not at the center of nationally newsworthy events, the Park Rangers are called on to think and act quickly in stressful situations. They have my deepest appreciation and thanks.
Karen O’Connor. In her years with Parks, Kathleen O’Connor has nurtured 31 Pro Parks Levy projects, 22 Parks and Green Spaces Levy projects, and more than 50 major maintenance projects. Lucky for us, Karen does nothing halfway. She always goes all out—her energy and personality make her office Information Central in the Parks Department.
She tailors each event to the project and community–for a community center opening she’ll have activities for families; for a playround opening she’ll find clowns or puppeteers for the kids. She finds new and wonderful bands and individual musicians. And she ties events to neighborhoods, causes, and people with an inspired and personal touch.
A recent example is the dedication of Thomas C. Wales Park on the east side of Queen Anne Hill, where she invited members of the Wales family, employees and former employees of the U.S. Attorney’s office, neighbors at the retirement facility next to the park, and members for CeaseFire Washington, a nonprofit in which Wales was involved that works to reduce gun violence.
Parks and Recreation, and our great city, is lucky to have her. Thank you, Karen.
Community Center Team. The team that worked on a new model for managing community centers was itself a model of cross-city collaboration. It included seven Parks employees, a CBO budget analyst, Ms. Nyland from my office, and 2 members from Council Central Staff. The work group started in January and outlined a strategic plan that included internal staff meetings with 300 recreation division staff, discussion at the Board of Park Commissioners, and multiple public meetings including a close working relationship with a dedicated citizens advisory committee that met twice monthly for 5 months. The work group led the development, analysis and review of many options that were narrowed to nine final options for consideration by the Superintendent, Mayor and City Council.
The team’s ultimate recomendation will save $1.2 million in general fund, keeps all community centers open, and results in a more efficient operational model for community centers. This team managed a complex and highly visible process based on solid data and thorough public review. Again, I offer my congratulations and thanks to all involved.
And finally, my hat is off to our Acting Superintendent Christopher Williams and his leadership team. Christopher, who is known to all in his department as a true leader with heart, is the first to commend everyone else who works in Parks. He is one of the finest leaders in our city, and I am truly honored to be working with him.