March 2014 - Parks & Recreation - 15

tor or a park district director - isn't
talented because of where they work,
or who they work for. It's because of
who they are. I am just as smart and
talented (or not, depending on whom
you talk with) in my consulting and
teaching role as I was when working
with CH2M Hill, or as director of a
public park and recreation agency. I
would bet that anyone in our profession would say the same thing - they
aren't going to be any less creative
or committed to perfection because
they do, or don't, work in the public
sector. The P3 option should be in
every agency's toolkit and should always be looked at as a possibility, but
it isn't a silver bullet any more, or less,
than 100 percent self-operation is. So
maybe the focus shouldn't be on the
agency; maybe the focus should be on
the person, and on ensuring a professional has the knowledge, skills and
abilities to be successful.
I pitched the following idea to
incoming Board of Directors Chair
Detrick Stanford during one of our
drives from the airport to Oglebay
for Supervisors Management School:
I think NRPA should recognize outstanding leaders in the field with the
same emphasis it recognizes Gold
Medal Agencies. We should develop
criteria to recognize individual leaders
who have overcome obstacles, been
creative, secured grants, developed
staff, etc., despite the lack of resources,
not because of them. People - not
agencies - make the profession what
it is. I do a little exercise when I teach
Leadership and Management at SMS.
I have the class stand, and then do a series of coin flips, asking " losers " to sit
down. The " winners " after three flips
are those who work in an affluent, suburban district with independent taxing
authority. And I ask the class, " Aren't
these the outstanding leaders in our

field? They have great facilities, great
staff, great parks, nice staff shirts, so
they are the best leaders, right? " Not
many agree with me, but too often
that's how we judge success. In class,
we discuss examples of leaders and
almost everyone agrees that Mother
Teresa and Osama bin Laden meet
the definition. They certainly were not
blessed with abundant resources.
I realize another award on top of
the many awards that are already in
place would be problematic, but recognizing true leadership and management skills would send the message
that it's not money, or the traditional
self-managed agency model, or tradition, or popularity, that defines
success. Success is accomplishment in
a difficult work environment, despite
obstacles and a lack of funding.
Barbara, I applaud you for raising
a difficult and touchy subject and inviting input. I read Tom O'Rourke's
thoughts on this topic ( " Mastering
Revenue, " September 2011) and remember how much he emphasized
that a quality park agency should be
able to compete head-to-head with
a private provider. I wholeheartedly agree. I've always admired Tom's
thinking on self-sufficiency and parks
advocacy. I would venture, however,
that if you put Tom in a private enterprise operation, he would say the
same thing I would say regarding
ability to compete head-to-head with
public agencies. It's about leadership skills and managing resources,
creativity, passion, building a team,
and ultimately providing the best programs and facilities possible, wherever you happen to be and whoever
happens to sign your paycheck.
Brad K. Chambers is a consultant at
ReCreate Parks Planning Group and a
principal at the Kelly Group
(thekellygroupconsulting@outlook.com).

W W W. N R PA . O R G | M A R C H 2 0 1 4 |

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March 2014 - Parks & Recreation

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