Denver Direct: Mayor Ignores Search Committee in Parks Manager Selection
Thursday, September 4, 2008
By Dave Felice
While Denver’s new manager of Parks and Recreation intends to pursue a policy of closing parks for commercial events, a city councilwoman is “upset” that the appointee is not one of the candidates recommended by the search committee.
Mayor John Hickenlooper named Kevin Patterson to the Parks position just before the Democratic National Convention.
Patterson declined to comment specifically on the acceptability of allowing private businesses to close public park lands for the purpose of making a profit from special events. He said the question was “not in context to a particular situation” such as an actual event proposal.
Expressing initial displeasure with the selection, Councilwoman Peggy Lehmann said: “The mayor essentially ignored the recommendations of the (search) committee, but that’s his privilege.” Lehmann is City Council’s Public Amenities Committee.
“The mayor has made his choice.” says Lehman. “I was asked to serve on the selection committee and Patterson’s name was not on any of the lists presented by the committee.”
While Lehmann declined to comment on her view of working with Patterson, he took a different view. “Councilwoman Lehmann and I have a long standing relationship. I have already reached out to her about the transition and will continue to work with her as the Public Amenities Chair on behalf of the Parks and Recreation Department.”
The other members of the Amenities Committee, Marcia Johnson of District 5 and Carla Madison of District 8, have neither reported nor commented on Patterson’s appointment. Council Member At-Large Doug Linkhart made a brief congratulatory statement in his monthly newsletter.
Mayor John Hickenlooper’s decision to appoint Patterson was made public August 22. Patterson has been Director of the city’s Department of General Services. He is also a member of the Denver School Board and will stay in that position until the end of his term in November 2009.
As manager of Parks and Recreation, Patterson will earn $130,531 per year.
Several community advocates expressed skepticism about the appointment, saying Patterson appeared to be a bureaucrat whose commitment to parks and recreation is yet to be determined. Some, who preferred anonymity, suggested that one of Patterson’s greatest talents is his ability to delegate.
Acting Manager Scott Robson returns to his position as Deputy Manager of Planning and Construction for Parks when Patterson officially takes over September 15.
Patterson inherits the controversial issues of closed commercial events in parks, the sale of alcohol in parks, a lack of communication with the community, continuing public criticism of the appearance and condition of the parks, and the future of recreation centers.
Patterson must also deal with the serious questions surrounding sewage effluent containing Lowry Landfill Superfund Site toxins used to irrigate City Park and fill Ferril Lake.
Under Robson’s leadership, members of the Admission Based Special Events Policy (ABSEP) task force have continued to meet. Former Parks Manager Kim Bailey set up the task force to develop a policy to allow private commercial businesses to close park lands for special events, promote additional sales of alcohol, and prevent free and open access to public lands.
Some citizen advocates have called for a full meeting of the task force to review what subcommittees have been discussing in recent months. The activity of the task force appears to have diminished somewhat while the city administration was preoccupied with preparations for the DNC.
At the time Patterson was named to the General Services position a year ago, Hickenlooper said: “Patterson’s extensive and diverse experience within Denver City government will be a tremendous asset as he leads…ongoing efforts to provide the most efficient, cost-effective and high-quality administrative services of any city in the nation – supplying the infrastructure that enables Denver’s City government to function at its best, both internally and externally.” Hickenlooper described Patterson as “an invaluable member of our administration.”
Patterson began his career as a middle school teacher in Texas. He was first elected to the Denver School Board in 2001 and re-elected in 2005. An elected member of the Colorado Association of School Boards, Patterson also serves on the Denver Workforce Investment Board and the Denver Consolidated Child Care Pilot.
Patterson holds a bachelor’s degree in teaching from Sam Houston State University in Texas, and both a Master of Public Administration and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Colorado at Denver.
201 West Colfax
Denver CO 80202
Questions and Answers (by email, unedited)
Denver Direct: What actual parks and recreation experience do you have?
Kevin Patterson: I believe I bring a unique and highly qualified skill set to the position as Manager of Parks and Recreation. Because we have a highly qualified parks staff with programmatic experience, my goal is to bring an organizational approach to align the department with its mission and vision. The information below is from the Mayor’s press release and gives you a good overview of my qualifications.
“…Kevin Patterson brings a unique combination of experience as a teacher, elected official and executive manager to his new post as Manager of Parks and Recreation.
In his current capacity, Patterson established a five-year strategic plan focusing on core business operations and management. He also chaired the Construction Empowerment Initiative which included $4 million in new projects to provide opportunity to small businesses.
A City employee since 1993, Patterson has also served as Deputy Manager of Human Services, Finance Director for Community Planning and Development and Budget Supervisor and Budget Analyst for the City’s Budget and Management Office. Prior to his employment with Denver, he was Citizens’ Advocate in the Office of Gov. Roy Romer.
An advocate of partnerships and collaborative decision-making, ‘Kevin has proven his ability to manage programs, lead personnel and execute strategic plans in his career with the City,’ Hickenlooper said. ‘He is a skilled innovator and creative problem solver. We are excited to have him join our dynamic team at Parks and Recreation.’
In his new role at Parks and Recreation, Patterson will focus on operations review, oversight of the department’s capital projects budget and continued advocacy of the City’s goals and vision for Parks and Recreation. That vision includes sustainability, community engagement and equity of services. Patterson begins his new role September 15.
Patterson received his bachelor’s degree in teaching from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, and a master’s of Public Administration and master’s of Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Colorado at Denver. Patterson was elected to the Denver School Board in 2001 and reelected in 2005.”
DD: Are you going to keep your position on the school board?
KP: I will stay on the school board until the end of my term, November 2009.
DD: What happens to Scott Robson?
KP: Scott will return to his position as Deputy Manager of Planning and Construction.
DD: Are you going to pursue development of a policy on admission-based special events?
KP: Denver Parks & Recreation has an admission-based special events task force that has been in place for several months. The department will continue the process already in place and continue to develop a policy that was voted on in September 07. Once the task force draft policy is completed, we will vet it through the proper channels, including neighborhood organizations, City Council and others.
DD: Do you consider it acceptable to allow private businesses to close public park lands for the purpose of making a profit from special events?
KP: As this question is not in context to a particular situation and without further elaboration, it would be impossible for me to respond.
DD: In 50 words or less, what are your views on recreation centers?
KP: Denver Parks and Recreation embarked on an ambitious Future of Denver Recreation Centers study this year. In addition to the Task Force, comprised of community leaders throughout Denver, there have been a series of public input meetings. These meetings have generated rich dialogue of what is important to citizens regarding the recreation centers and programs. Citizens are encouraged to attend the “pair” of meetings at the 3 remaining locations. The meetings are from 6-8pm and a light dinner, Spanish interpreter, Sign Language interpreter with advance notice, and day care is provided. If you would like additional information please contact 720-913-0689.
Montbello Recreation Center, 15555 E. 53rd Ave. September 2 and 16
Bruce Randolph School, 3955 Steele St. September 3 and 17
Harvey Park Recreation Center, 2121 S. Tennyson Way September 4 and 18
Once all of the community meetings are completed, the priorities from the eight community meetings along with the additional feedback from these meetings will be presented to the Recreation Center Task Force. Draft recommendations will be created and presented at four Community meetings which will be held in November (dates, times and locations have not been determined). The draft recommendations will also be posted on the Denver Parks and Recreation website. Community comments will be gathered at these meetings and the Task Force will complete final recommendations. The final recommendations from the Task Force will be presented to Parks and Recreation employees, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, City Council Public Amenities Committee and the Mayor’s office in December and January 2009. Depending on the final recommendations, implementation of the outcomes from the Study could be implemented beginning in 2009.
DD: What is your transition date?
KP: I will begin as Manager of Parks and Recreation on September 15, 2008.
DD: Have you spoken with Public Amenities Chair Peggy Lehmann?
KP: Councilwoman Lehmann and I have a long standing relationship. I have already reached out to her about the transition and will continue to work with her as the Public Amenities Chair on behalf of the Parks and Recreation Department.
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