Mayoral candidates for the City of Omaha have some obvious thoughts on hiring a new director for the Omaha Parks, Recreation and Public Property department.
Following the panel portion of the event, when the five candidates answered specific questions presented by a three-member panel, they visited with members of the crowd.
The opportunity was taken at ask how the candidate would select a new director for the Parks department.
Brad Ashford: was gone before he could be talked with.
Dave Nabity: "I am concerned with the way parks is being run now" he said. He would like to provide neighborhood associations funds to they can hire workers, rather than rely on government. The Parks department and neighborhood associations should work together as a partnership.
Jean Stothert: "I would hire a qualified and best person possible." Their having a vision for the parks and how to manage them was mentioned in particular. An evaluation should be done on what is needed for the parks, and then develop a plan for their revitalization. Public and private partnerships would be important, mentioning how this did not work so well at Elmwood Park.
Jim Suttle: He is looking to get a professional to lead the department, including someone with a suitable educational background and applicable experience.
Dan Welch: "We would have a conversation with the director and where to take the city," he said. We would do what we can to make it better.
Most of the candidates agreed that local residents have a better understanding of needs for their parks, and could be helpful in efficiently achieving neighborhood goals.
The City of Omaha has 224 parks, which encompass more than 10,000 acres.
Earlier this week, it was announced that the acting director, Brook Bench was recently placed in a new position within the department, becoming assistant to the director. This is a civil service job, and the person is not hired by the mayor.
The timing of this change, may be possibly be done to ensure Bench has a job if a new mayor is elected in May.
The public forum, "Midtown Matters: A Mayoral Candidates Panel" was held from 6:00-8:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 21 at the Field Club of Omaha. Candidates remained afterwards to answer questions. More than 150 people attended.