Thursday, June 22, 2000
New parks chief named
Carden, who oversaw fountain revamping, is 13-year city employee
By Kevin Z. Smith
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The man who directed the restoration of the Tyler Davidson Fountain has been asked to bring that restorative flair to the city's 5,000-acre park system.
Willie Carden looks out over Mirror Lke from the gazebo in Eden Park.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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Willie F. Carden Jr., a 13-year city employee, will become director of Cincinnati parks July 5. He is now manager of the city's Facility Management section, which oversees more than 80 city buildings, including City Hall and police and fire stations.
It is rare in this world when you have a vision and a dream to improve the place you live and are given an opportunity to pursue it. That is why I decided to take on the job, Mr. Carden said. I have a vision of our park system, and it is one of great pride for our city and its people.
Mr. Carden said his plans are to bring regional recognition to the city's park system, elevating its status to greater prominence, perhaps similar to that of a noted theme park.
Don't laugh, but I want our parks to be like Disney World. I want them to be as safe as Disney World, as clean, and I want the parks to be a constant source of pride and excitement for families and residents of the city and region, just like Disney World, he said.
Roger W. Ach II, a park board commissioner, said the board's search committee had been looking for a replacement since Jack Wilson left the position in August 1999. Mr. Ach said Mr. Carden's management of the eight-month, $2.2 million fountain renovation project impressed the commissioners.
The scope of the Cincinnati parks system: |
60 neighborhood parks.
5,000 acres of park space.
30 nature preserves.
Five nature education centers.
1,000 miles of city street tree and shrub plantings.
$10 million annual operating budget.
If you look at Willie, you will see that he has a long history of doing great things for the city and managing projects and keeping them within budget, Mr. Ach said.
Mr. Carden said he developed an appreciation of Cincinnati's regional appeal when working with the fountain project. That same regional philosophy should be applied to the park system, he said.
Let me tell you what I discov ered when restoring that fountain. We were not talking about a city icon, but one that is regional. This was a project just not of special interest to the city and the Tristate, but to the Midwest, Mr. Carden said.
If Cincinnati is to become the tourism mecca we want following the completion of Fort Washington Way and the riverfront development, then we need to provide these families with quality park services. We want people to think of Cincinnati parks from great distances.
Mr. Carden said he's not criti cal of the parks and their services, but his vision is to move them to a new level of service and comfort.
Improvement should always drive us, he said.
Before joining the Department of General Services in 1997, Mr. Carden was assistant manager of Riverfront Stadium (now Cinergy Field) for two years and manager for 15 months.
He graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1986 with a bachelor's degree in finance/
Mr. Carden's current supervisor, Kevin Shepard, called him a rising star in city services. He has tremendous energy, a terrific way of working with people and great management systems skills.
Mr. Shepard credited Mr. Carden with establishing an aggressive building management system that allows for timely restoration and maintenance of city property.
Steven Schuckman, acting parks director, said he will meet with Mr. Carden to review the park system's master plan.
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