The Columbus Parks and Recreation Board, which lost three members to resignation a week ago after a five-month power dispute with the mayor, is back at full strength.
Mayor Kristen Brown has appointed Jennifer Carroll, Amy Kleinert and Angela Macy to fill the open seats on the four-member board. They will join continuing board member David Jones and will meet for the first time as a board June 12.
Carroll is an English teacher at Columbus East High School and serves as hospitality chairwoman of the Donner Swim Club Board. She has also been a past president and vice president of the Swim Club Board.
Kleinert is a program development specialist at Developmental Services Inc. and the former executive director of kidscommons in downtown Columbus.
Macy is a substitute teacher and tutor for the Bartholomew County School Corp. She also taught Spanish at the former International School of Columbus.
All three new board members have children actively involved in recreational activities through parks and recreation programs.
Carroll said she doesn’t have any specific goals she would like to accomplish on the parks board. Being new to public office, she said she has a lot to learn.
“Right now, I’m just excited to learn the ropes and see what’s out there, what needs to be worked on and what’s already been started and either is or is not finished,” Carroll said. “This all started Wednesday. I haven’t had much of a chance to digest any of it.”
The city’s parks department has been without a permanent director since Dec. 30, when Brown demoted Ben Wagner from director to marketing coordinator. That set off a controversy about whether the parks board or the mayor has the power to fire or demote a parks director, and who has the power to oversee and run the city’s parks.
Wagner left the department as marketing coordinator on Friday, leaving that position also vacant.
Parks board members Brian Russell, Nancy Ann Brown and Mary Tucker resigned last Friday after failing to resolve differences on the issue of authority over parks, following two private meetings with the mayor and two community leaders.
Carroll said she did not want to comment on those matters.
“The past is past. It’s done. It’s over. I don’t know the story; I don’t know all the details,” she said.
“I just want to lead by example, keep moving forward and get the parks (department) running,” Carroll said.
Kleinert and Macy declined interviews but gave statements through emails.
“I offered, as a volunteer, to serve on the Parks Board because it is a unique opportunity that matches my passion for the parks and I recognize the importance of the parks’ properties and recreational activities in the lives of people in our community,” Kleinert said. “With this passion comes a unique skill set in public administration that I hope will complement the talents of the other park board members.”
Macy said in her statement that she knows parks are considered a crown jewel of Columbus, and she feels lucky and honored to be part of the board.
“This is a fantastic community and the parks are a great asset to our children in this community,” she said. “I have tutored many children who are learning English, and the Parks Department has provided all our children with many great programs.”
Carroll said she expects there to be collaboration between the parks board and the mayor when making decisions regarding the city’s parks.
“There has to be a conversation, or you don’t get anything accomplished,” she said. “You have to listen to all opinions and obviously form your own, but I would expect there to be a conversation and open communication.”
Brown said in the news release announcing the appointments that the parks are “one of our community’s most treasured assets. We recently injected more than
$4 million of public money into the parks department to preserve our parks facilities. As a result, our parks system is the strongest it’s been in many years.” she said. “Fresh leadership on the parks and rec board will help us continue this great work and advance our outstanding parks department to an even higher level,” she said.
According to state law, a city park board consists of four members that are appointed by the mayor and no more than two members may be affiliated with the same political party.
Carroll said she is an independent.
Kleinert is a Democrat, according to Bartholomew County voting records.
Macy said in an email that she is Republican.
Jones also is a Republican.
Parks board members supervise more than 235 adult and youth programs, maintain more than 1,000 acres of land, 23 parks, five large facilities and about 30 miles of trails, according to former parks board members.
The mayor appoints members to 15 decision-making bodies of the city of Columbus including boards, commissioners and committees, a total of 58 appointees. Carroll, Kleinert and Macy are the mayor’s 62nd, 63rd and 64th appointees.