Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele's office confirms that Sue Black is no longer Milwaukee County Parks Director. No reason has yet been stated. Members of the Milwaukee County Board are not yet commenting, many saying they did not have advanced notice about Black's departure.
Black has overseen Milwaukee's parks system for many years, and it has won numerous awards during her tenure.
Abele's office released the following statement Thursday afternoon:
"Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele is announcing a national search for a new Parks Director to replace Sue Black. Black is no longer with Milwaukee County. “Sue has been a strong steward for the Milwaukee County Parks system. Her leadership has helped put us on a solid path as we move forward. I thank her for her years of service and wish her well in her future endeavors,” Abele said. “Residents should know I remain committed to making sure we have the best parks for everyone.”
The Park People of Milwaukee released the following statement:
“We have worked closely with Sue Black over the years and have always appreciated her intensity and commitment to the Milwaukee County Parks System. Sue and her staff have done a particularly good job of maintaining our parks when faced with year after year of budget cuts and have been recognized nationally for their innovation and leadership in parks and recreation. Through her leadership, there have been many improvements to our parks from the renaissance of Bradford Beach, concerts in the parks, Dog Exercise Areas and disc/Frisbee golf courses.
Since 1982, when the County tool over the Parks System, the budget for our parks is less than what it was when the County took it over in 1982. Sue was able to develop strong relationships with local businesses and community groups and partner to make things happen in our parks.
We're still trying to understand the reason behind today's events regarding Director Black and await to hear more information from the County Executive regarding her replacement. We thank her for her years of public service and wish her well in her future endeavors.
Statement from County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic, after she learned of Black's departure:
“First, I would like to thank Sue Black for her many years of devoted service to the Milwaukee County Parks and to the taxpayers of Milwaukee County. Black secured several national awards and accolades for the Parks that we all cherish, especially in our urbanized area.
While I am sorry to see Black go, I recognize that such a personnel decision is solidly in the purview of County Executive Chris Abele. Black became the public face of the Milwaukee County Parks, and I thank her for her efforts to tell the Parks’ story.
I commend Black for her achievements in developing private-public partnerships and corporate sponsorships in the face of diminished public support.
Black would most certainly be at the top of any national search for the director of a parks system, and I wish her the very best in her future endeavors.
Additionally, I am disappointed in the timing of this situation, as the Milwaukee County Board prepares for delivery of the Milwaukee County Executive 2013 Recommended Budget. The absence of a Parks leader will certainly make it more difficult to respond to constituents who have voiced their support for Parks. I look forward to a report on how the Milwaukee County Executive’s office plans to proceed on major Parks initiatives currently in the works.
Statement from Milwaukee Dog Parks group:
It is early on and we don’t know the details, but what we do know is for the time being Parks is without a dedicated leader, Sue Black being gone as of today August 17th. We will update when we get more info and if you follow us on Facebook we will cross-post all pertinent articles.
Sue Black was integral to dog parks being established in Milwaukee beyond the original Granville park. Before her arrival, we kept getting the run around from the former administration. Once Sue came – having had experience with them at Dane County where there are around a dozen dog parks – the process sped up and since her arrival we have opened The Runway, Currie, Estabrook, and Warnimont parks and are in progress for a Riverwest urban dog park. ROMP is grateful to the time and attention Sue put in as Director and will miss her passion and forward thinking.
While the search for a new one goes on expect some reduction in service but be patient. With our partnership with The Park People of Milwaukee County, Inc. we have direct contact with the County Exec and supervisors on the Parks committee. It is very important not knowing the philosophy of the new leader, that everyone please do your best to keep dog parks clean, safe, and a gem of the system to ensure they are appreciated by the new director when (that person) arrives.