By Elise Franco
The Mill Creek MetroParks Board of Commissioners wasted no time naming a new executive director, but board president Robert Durick said the decision wasn’t a hasty one.
The board appointed Dennis Miller, a 14-year MetroParks employee, executive director Sept. 18. He’ll replace Clarke Johnson, who announced his retirement Sept. 14. Johnson, hired in December 2010, said he’s leaving the park to return to his wife in Wisconsin.
The board’s decision and Miller’s qualifications were called into question by some park supporters, but Miller said he’s ready and willing to prove himself worthy of the position.
“It appears that this was a hasty decision, but it wasn’t. I was approached by the board about a year ago,” Miller said. “This park belongs to the citizens, and I truly understand the responsibility instilled in this position.”
Durick said the commissioners began discussing the job with Miller, the former golf director, about nine months ago when Johnson expressed his need to leave once the park’s master plan was finished.
The board decided about a month ago to appoint Miller to Johnson’s position, Durick said.
During the search for Johnson, which Durick called extremely “voluminous,” he and other board members looked to hire someone from within the MetroParks, but they found that none met their qualifications. This time, however, was different, he said.
“We have a guy now who has been in the MetroParks system for something like 15 years, ready to step in,” Durick said. “He knows the park, is a local guy and gets things done.”
Miller will be the fourth permanent executive director since 2002 and says his focus is to “bring stability back to the park.”
He said his previous position wasn’t “just golf director”; under that title he was responsible for managing the golf course, the Wick Recreation Area and the Judge Morley Pavilion — a grouping of the park’s biggest revenue generators with a total operating budget of about $1.7 million. “I am involved with planning and fundraising and project management. I am a business manager,” he said. “I know what we need to concentrate on to improve efficiencies and management, and I realize the needs of the MetroParks.”
Durick said he hopes that when the board approves the long-awaited master plan at its Oct. 9 meeting, everyone will support it and Miller.
“When this master plan in implemented the board will be behind it and Dennis 100 percent,” Durick said. “All the department heads and their employees will all support it, too.”
To earn that same support from the public, Miller said he intends to promote greater transparency from the board, especially on hot-button issues such as the potential for hydraulic fracturing on park lands.
“I do completely understand the concerns that the guardians of Mill Creek have,” he said. “We’re going to be very transparent and open with any decision that myself or the board has.”
He said the board is inviting the public to two forums in October to discuss the issue, something board members have promised they’d do. The times and dates will be announced in the next few weeks.
“Even if there isn’t anything to report, we’re going to say that. We need to be more proactive because it is such a hot topic right now,” Miller said.