WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosa hires new parks and recreation director


Santa Rosa has hired a new parks and recreation director from El Paso, Texas, to replace Marc Richardson, who resigned in December.

Nanette Smejkal was selected following a nationwide search because of the experience she gained over a 25-year career managing parks and recreations departments with a diverse array of programs and facilities, City Manager Kathy Millison said.

“Her skills and experience in long- and short-term strategic planning, fund development, succession planning and staff development, community engagement, and budget and financial analysis will be important for leadership of the department,” Millison said in a statement. “We are fortunate to have her join our team.”

Nanette Smejkal.

Nanette Smejkal.

Smejkal, starts July 1. She will make the top of the salary range for the post, $153,960, plus about $40,000 in benefits.

She was most recently the director of parks and recreation for the City of El Paso, a post she has held since 2007. The west Texas city on the Rio Grande has a population of about 650,000.

Prior to that she was the director of parks, recreation and community services for the City of Reno, which has a population of about 225,000.

“I have dedicated my career to providing communities and our customers with innovative and accountable parks and recreation services and look forward to the challenge of continuing that tradition for the City of Santa Rosa,” Smejkal said in a statement. “I have toured the community and was excited to learn about the robust services and facilities offered by the city.”

Smejkal did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

Her accomplishments include seeking voter approval for a bond to build and rehabilitate parks and recreation facilities; acquiring land for open space preservation and parks through public and private partnerships; retrofitting aging parks with play structures and furnishings; and developing comprehensive trail systems, Millison said.

Smejkal will inherit a department facing several challenges. Its previous top two officials, Richardson and Rich Hovden, retired after an investigation showed they had for years accepted free golf and other benefits from the operator of the Bennett Valley Golf Club.

That course is struggling under the weight of nearly $500,000 in debt from the construction in 2007 of a $10 million clubhouse and pro shop. Cuts to the department have gutted the parks and maintenance staff.

And while the department has brought new facilities on line in recent years, such as the Church of One Tree, DeTurk Round Barn, and the new senior wing of the Finley Community Center, staffing and managing those facilities remains a challenge, Millison has said.

Assistant City Manager Jennifer Phillips has been interim director since Richardson left. For the moment, Phillips will continue to handle the issues facing the golf course, which will probably need further financial auditing to resolve, Millison said.

“Whenever a department goes through a leadership transition, it’s always exciting to bring someone on on a permanent basis,” Millison said. “I definitely expect that Nanette can come in and hit the ground running.”

Whether to hire someone to replace Hovden, the former parks development manager, is a decision Millison said will be up to Smejkal.

Other benefits of the post include a month of vacation, up to $7,500 in moving expenses, and an automobile expense of $4,200 per year.

(You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @citybeater.)

10 Responses to “Santa Rosa hires new parks and recreation director”

  1. GAJ says:

    Right you are Skippy.

    My brother lives in Texas.

    Their infrastructure including Parks and such are in FAR better shape than ours is here…by a LONG shot.

  2. Skippy says:

    Funny how broke Californians are so vicious in their hatred for thriving Texas.
    As usual, those that hate the deepest have never even met a Texan.
    Golden State arrogance goeth before the fall.

  3. micki says:

    She’s from Texas where they care SO MUCH about parks and recreation (not) I worry that putting the care of lands that the people, people who don’t have tons of money but who really utilize these areas, will somehow play into the hands of those who would rather see these lands as sold into private properties, to be enjoyed by the few, not the many.

  4. GAJ says:

    Less than 10% of the population plays golf.

    Hardly necessary.

    Turn it into low income housing or a solar farm.

  5. Steveguy says:

    Lay off the golf course for now. Who caused the $10 million fancy-dan clubhouse that caused the debt ? Who ?

    Was it the City, whose Agenda and Plan is to indebt everything to unsustainable numbers ?

    They are doing it to everything else. Look at pensions, then look at health care for life.

    Unsustainable, but they can buy a 2nd or 3rd home. oh my Public servants my rectal area.

    Hey PD, they are SELF-servants. Oh Bosco knows and he owns you. Oh well, there goes the 4th estate, goodbye.

  6. Snarky says:

    Kathy Robler said about the golf course: “It provides a needed and good public service to the residents of Santa Rosa”

    Ahhhh ha ha ha ha ha haha ha.

    Yeah, Kathy.

    A mere golf course is a “needed public service” …..

    YOU are a public employee without a doubt. Nobody but govt employees claim their “services” are so “needed”… when they are NOT.

  7. Alex says:

    $193,960 pay including published benefits for a public servant. I thought servant meant you accepted less because you wanted to serve the public. Nowadays, public “servant” only get served with the spoils of the taxpayer!

  8. FedupTaxpayer says:

    Kathy, if the golf course is Losing money it needs to be closed! It should be able to be self supporting financially and that includes employees costs. Golf is not a necessary service and we cannot afford another drain on our budget.

  9. Joe says:

    Wait, I thought P & R was almost broke and NOW you hire a new director at the top of the pay scale at 200k per year????? OMG when will the BS stop? Could of hired someone at less pay, much less and you expect the public to believe that P & R is out of money.

  10. Kathy Robler says:

    If the new Park and Rec Director has any sense, she will keep her hands off of the golf course. It provides a needed and good public service to the residents of Santa Rosa. Even those who do not play golf. The restaurant is very good.

    Let the golf course management staff resolve any finance issues. The hands of the Santa Rosa assistant city manager will only continue to mismanage the course if that is what has truly happened. Professionals need to be in charge, not bureaucrats trying to act like manager fixers.