Park News

Dallas Park Board seems to be in a big stealthy hurry to hire parks director

Dallas Park Board is in a big stealthy hurry to hire parks director

Reverchon Park
Parks such as Reverchon Park have become a political thing recently. Photo by Conner Howell

UPDATE 4-2-2020: John D. Jenkins was approved as the new director of the Dallas Park and Recreation Department.

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The city of Dallas' Park and Recreation Department is hiring a new director, and it's doing so in a big rush.

The Dallas Park and Recreation Board, which is one of the only boards and commissions with this kind of authority, will vote on a new director at a meeting on Thursday April 2 at 10 am.

The final vote will be taken via the internet and seems likely to take place with little public scrutiny. (You can watch it live here.)

There are three finalists: John Jenkins, the department's interim director; Gordon Robertson, director of planning for the parks and recreation department in Denver; and Daniel Betts, director of recreation for Cincinnati.

Prior director Willis Winters, who had been in the position since 2013, retired in October 2019.

Parks have become a big political deal recently, with controversies such as the decision to hand off management of Reverchon Park to a private developer who plans to build a stadium.

Media consultant Brett Shipp calls the "a race to defy logic, logistics, and fiscal responsibility," that's happening despite the COVID-19 pandemic and a hiring freeze in the city of Dallas.

"With Dallas citizens under stay-at-home orders, many businesses temporarily shutting down, and many Dallas residents worried about the ability of local hospitals to handle the pandemic, one wonders why the election of the Park Director is being treated as a critical issue that cannot wait?" he asks.

Adding to the peculiarity is the fact that the Dallas Park Board canceled two other meetings scheduled for the same time; the cancellations can be seen on the meeting agenda, posted online.

"Why are those meetings cancelled and not the full Board meeting?" Shipp says.

Citizens can testify remotely if they have the technological ability and information to do so.

Shipp says that one block of opposition is coming from the Coalition to Defend Reverchon Park, a group of residents united to overturn the decision to redevelop Reverchon.

The plan to demolish the ballpark is being orchestrated by current Interim Director John Jenkins who is believed to be the favorite to be hired as Director.

D Magazine notes in a blog post that much of the selection process so far has happened behind closed doors, and also raises questions about Jenkins' qualifications and history.