New Parks and Recreation Chief – Kevin Patterson – Why?

An analytical assesment of why Mayor Hickenlooper appointed Kevin Patterson to be the next Manager of the Department of Parks and Recreation will probably devolve into speculation. Not much is known about the mayor’s deliberations prior to the appointment. In fact, Mister Patterson was not even a contender for the position, didn’t even make the short list, when the “search committee” presented its recommendations to the Mayor…supposedly after a “nationwide search.” Indeed, from Denver Direct comes this: Expressing initial displeasure with the selection, Councilwoman Peggy Lehmann said: ‘The mayor essentially ignored the recommendations of the (search) committee, but that’s his privilege.’ Lehmann is City Council’s Public Amenities Committee.

“‘The mayor has made his choice.’ says Lehman. ‘I was asked to serve on the selection committee and Patterson’s name was not on any of the lists presented by the committee.’

“…Several community advocates expressed skepticism about the appointment, saying Patterson appeared to be a bureaucrat whose commitment to parks and recreation is yet to be determined. Some, who preferred anonymity, suggested that one of Patterson’s greatest talents is his ability to delegate.”

Firstly, during my tenure with the city, I knew Kevin Patterson. I knew Kevin Patterson as a good and decent person, who was responsive to the requisites of whatever position he held within the bureaucracy. He was always cooperative, cordial, articulate, caring. But, in saying that, it would also be fair to describe Patterson as a politician; a practitioner of the art of pacification, compromise to achieve the particular ends of those who happened to sit on a higher rung of the political ladder. Read into that statement what you will.

The real issue, of course, is why? Why Patterson at this time in the shaky history of the Department of Parks and Recreation under John Hickenlooper? Why Patterson at this time when the specter of utilizing public park lands to the exclusion of non-paying taxpayers by allowing private for-profit entrepreneurs to make a killing through admission-based events in public parks?

Denver Direct outlines several other pressing issues with which Patterson will have to deal, day one, first day in the office: Patterson inherits the controversial issues of closed commercial events in parks, the sale of alcohol in parks, a lack of communication with the community, continuing public criticism of the appearance and condition of the parks, and the future of recreation centers.

Patterson must also deal with the serious questions surrounding sewage effluent containing Lowry Landfill Superfund Site toxins used to irrigate City Park and fill Ferril Lake.”

Okay. From Denver Direct again, when Patterson was asked, “What actual parks and recreation experience do you have?” His answer reads as a primer in bureaucratese:

Kevin Patterson: I believe I bring a unique and highly qualified skill set to the position as Manager of Parks and Recreation. Because we have a highly qualified parks staff with programmatic experience, my goal is to bring an organizational approach to align the department with its mission and vision.

Patterson’s answer surely beamed bright amongst those inured in the particular art of collective bureaucratese; a kind of elegant obfuscation that tends to impress with language what otherwise could be summed-up with a single word: None.

Let’s move on to speculation.

An observation. In my experience, there are two categories of bureaucrats: 1) Those who serve to please their management; who quite willingly put aside law, policy and procedure to further the ends of those who evaluate their performance. This category seldom considers what the best interests of the city might entail. The best interests of the city encompasses what you and I believe to be just, fair and reasonable in the day-to-day operation of the city. 2) Then there are those who hold the best interests of the city on a higher plane than what will please management. This category of bureaucrat relies upon the imperatives of law, policy and procedure as the bulwark against the tendency of management to advance their priorities in spite of and often in conflict to what the Charter, the Revised Municipal Code and Executive Orders demand.

Suffice it to say, the latter category of bureaucrat serves a higher calling than the former. The latter category of bureaucrat views the city as something much larger, something much more deserving, something much more essentially deserving than the caprices of management, the demands of the politicians.

That said, where do we place Kevin Patterson? The unknowns abound. The precious resources of our parks are at stake. Will Mister Patterson serve the best interests of the city? Or, will Mister Patterson serve his management, which, in this case, is Mayor Hickenlooper.

Suspect Mister Patterson will undertake his new duties–with the simple logic of George Washington Plunkitt of Tamany Hall fame working at the back of his brain, “I seen my opportunities, and I took ’em.” As I said, Patterson is a politician.

Enough said.

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