MetroParks board member Shipka decides not to seek reappointment

By Jordyn Grzelewski



Tom Shipka, the Mill Creek MetroParks board member who spearheaded numerous changes to park policies at a time when park leaders were facing public backlash, announced he will not seek reappointment when his term expires at year’s end.

“I think I’ve accomplished a lot in the 19 months I’ve served, and at this juncture, I don’t want to continue the pace of intensity and time involvement that I’ve had to exhibit in the recent year and a half,” he told The Vindicator on Tuesday.

BACKGROUND: Large crowd attends first meeting with new MetroParks board members

Shipka joined the board in June 2016 to fill an unexpired term. His appointment followed a somewhat turbulent period. In February 2016, park leaders, to much public outcry, eliminated numerous park positions, and two board members resigned in quick succession. The handling of the staff reorganization also resulted in a lawsuit against the MetroParks.

Shipka, who was appointed using a new vetting process that incorporated 10 community members’ input into Mahoning County Probate Judge Robert N. Rusu Jr.’s decision, made public input a priority of his tenure.

In a report sent to Judge Rusu on Tuesday, Shipka highlighted some of the changes he identified as necessary and helped implement.

BACKGROUND: MetroParks board adopts changes, establishes advisory committees

Among them was the establishment of standing advisory committees to the board, which give community members who serve on the committees opportunities for public input into board decisions.

As noted in his letter to the judge, Shipka also spearheaded the start of bimonthly board work sessions, the board’s identification of specific goals for the executive director, the hiring of a development director, and approval of a policy requiring that significant decisions be discussed by the board in a public session before implementation.

“My hope is that these changes, which I believe have helped to diminish but not dissipate anger in the community, will endure in the months and years ahead,” Shipka wrote. “This will require the ongoing commitment to them by the commissioners, the executive director and other MetroParks staff, members of the standing committees, and members of the community.”

Shipka also identified to the judge two challenges he believes are facing the park – fundraising and “re-energizing” the Mill Creek MetroParks Foundation.

Shipka’s departure means Judge Rusu, the appointing authority for the park board, now is responsible for filling two seats, as board member John Ragan also is not seeking reappointment when his term expires at year’s end.

In a statement, the judge said his selection committee screened 11 candidates for Ragan’s seat and forwarded several recommendations to him. He said it likely will take some additional time to find Shipka’s successor due to the late notification and upcoming holidays. Replacements likely will be named after the first of the year.

He also expressed his disappointment at Shipka’s departure, saying, “Tom brought leadership and passion to the park board and helped the park through a difficult part in its history. I wish to thank him for his dedication to the park and his attention to detail. His presence will be missed.”

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