Tuesday June 3, 2003
Mayor Jerry Abramson today named a proven administrator in Austin, Texas, and a Louisville native as director of Louisville Metro Parks.
Michael J. Heitz, 54, has built a reputation during his 18 years in Austin as an accomplished manager and a problem-solver in several posts including parks and recreation director.
“Michael is a hometown guy who has proven he can solve big-city challenges in departments as large as Louisville Metro Parks,” Abramson said. “His unique background will allow him to hit the ground running.”
Heitz is currently director of Austin’s Watershed Protection and Development Review Department, an expansive agency that oversees flood control, water quality protection, planning and zoning, development and building and environmental inspections. For four years, he served as parks and recreation director for Austin’s park system, overseeing about 500 full-time and 2,000 seasonal employees.
Heitz, who will start his new job Aug. 4., will make $98,000 a year. Clay Campbell will continue to serve interim parks director.
Mary Lou Northern, cabinet secretary for Neighborhoods, Parks and Cultural Affairs, said Heitz was the consensus choice of the citizens’ panel that reviewed the parks director candidates. “Mike’s leadership experience and abilities impressed us all,” she said.
“His breadth of knowledge and experience goes well beyond parks but it all applies to running a successful parks system,” said Tori Murden McClure, a member of the citizens’ panel.
Heitz is a licensed architect who earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Kentucky, a master’s degree in community development from the University of Louisville and a master’s of public administration from South Texas State University.
The return to Louisville and the parks directorship completes the circle for Heitz, whose first job out of school was assistant parks engineer for Louisville Metro Parks. Just a few months after starting the job in October 1973, Heitz was part of the replanting and restoration of several Louisville parks that were devastated by April 1974 tornadoes.
He worked in both Louisville and Jefferson County governments for almost 10 years in the 1970s and early 1980s, serving as deputy director of county code enforcement and city architect. “I’ve always wanted to come back to Louisville and be director of Metro Parks,” Heitz said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
The parks director will oversee 119 parks, forests and recreation facilities that cover more then 13,500 acres in the Louisville Metro. The parks system also includes nine golf courses and 14 swimming pools (two year-round indoor pools and 12 outdoor pools).
The parks department has a $25 million annual operating budget with 500 full- and part-time employees and 1,000 seasonal employees.