Mayor Wants Homeless Czar to Run Park Board

Categories: City Hall
Mike_Rawlings_Merten.jpg
Sam Merten
Mike Rawlings
Chris Heinbaugh, Mayor Tom Leppert's chief of staff, just sent word that the mayor has tapped the city's "homeless czar," Mike Rawlings, to head the Park and Rec board. (The board president position is, at present, vacant.) Nothing's official till council OK's the nomination upon its return in August -- like it'll say no -- but in the release, Leppert says he picked Rawlings because the budget's busted and just maybe Rawlings is the man to do the fixin':
"The new budget realities mean we must reexamine everything we do, and I can't think of a better person for this than Mike Rawlings," said Mayor Leppert. "Mike knows how to drill down to determine the needs and the resources, how to raise funds and how to get things done."

Like the rest of city government, the Park Department faces major cuts due to a critical budget shortfall. The City has aggressively invested in restoring older parks and adding new green space, especially downtown. But with the economic downturn the City has been challenged in finding the funds for ongoing operation and maintenance.

"We have got to find funding models that are more sustainable," said Mayor Leppert. "We have to change the status quo."
The Official Announcement, incidentally, makes no mention of the fact Rawlings is chief executive officer of Legends Hospitality Management, the Dallas Cowboys-New York Yankees' joint concessions venture. In light of Elliot's Thursday exclusive concerning maybe-could-be plans to privatize Fair Park, does the Cotton Bowl need a new wiener-provider?
MAYOR NOMINATES RAWLINGS TO CHAIR PARK BOARD
Former Homeless Czar Tapped for Fundraising, Business Skills
Today, Mayor Tom Leppert announced the nomination of Mike Rawlings to chair the board of the Dallas Park & Recreation Department. Rawlings is the managing partner at the private equity group, CIC Partners, LP. He also served as the City's homeless czar for five years and chair of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance. With this nomination, Mayor Leppert hopes to set a new course for the city's park system.

"The new budget realities mean we must reexamine everything we do, and I can't think of a better person for this than Mike Rawlings," said Mayor Leppert. "Mike knows how to drill down to determine the needs and the resources, how to raise funds and how to get things done."

Like the rest of city government, the Park Department faces major cuts due to a critical budget shortfall. The City has aggressively invested in restoring older parks and adding new green space, especially downtown. But with the economic downturn the City has been challenged in finding the funds for ongoing operation and maintenance.

"We have got to find funding models that are more sustainable," said Mayor Leppert. "We have to change the status quo."

Mayor Leppert tapped Rawlings for both his success at fundraising as well as his business-like approach to challenges.

"These days, to create the best Park and Recreation Department in the country we must approach it as a business," said Rawlings. "We must listen to our customers, control our costs, and work with our strategic allies - from neighborhood associations to corporations to foundations - to make this a reality."

As chair, Rawlings would work closely with Park Board Vice-Chair Joan Walne. Rawlings will focus more on new strategic challenges and opportunities while Walne will put her strong institutional knowledge to work. Rawlings, who is also the former CEO of Pizza Hut, replaces Tom Baker, who is stepping down after two years. Baker played a key role in streamlining the Park Board and moving the operations of the Dallas Zoo into the Dallas Zoo Society's hands.

"That transition has occurred smoothly and is a great model for the future, thanks in large part to Tom's leadership," said Mayor Leppert.

Rawlings is being replaced as chairman of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance by business leader John Castle, Jr.
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