The Columbus Parks and Recreation Department needed a leader with experience, one who could win the support of staff members and quickly facilitate a healing process after more than six months of turmoil.
Hiring 18-year department employee Mark Jones as the new city park director was a wise decision and should bring stability to what has been a rocky situation.
He takes over a department that has operated under an interim director since January. However, the department veteran’s familiarity with the community and all Parks and Rec operations and professional relationships with the staff should ensure a smooth transition for everyone.
Jones had long hoped to one day become a parks department director. That dream was shaped as he worked through the ranks of Columbus Parks and Rec, from a part-time adult basketball supervisor in college to an intern and then sports coordinator. Jones’ skills were further honed as the department’s director of sports programs and athletics facilities, a position he held for the past four years.
He understands the department from multiple points of view, from his time in the trenches with other staffers to managing facilities and executing plans to attract dozens of sports tournaments to Columbus. It’s uncertain how long it would have taken an outside candidate to get up to speed and earn the respect of colleagues in the department.
Since Mayor Kristen Brown demoted Parks Director Ben Wagner to marketing coordinator in late December, the department has been caught in the middle of a political firestorm that scrutinized mayoral powers and saw Wagner and three parks board members resign. Jones’ background and ability will help Parks and Rec move forward.
A fresh start is needed, and a familiar face in this case is the right person for the job.