BURLINGTON – Cindi Wight has been appointed as the new director of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department.
Former Director Jesse Bridges left for a new job in May after close to five years. Nina Safavi has led the department on an interim basis since then.
Mayor Miro Weinberger said the hiring decision, which he announced Tuesday, was important for the community.
“I think, with maybe the exception of the police chief, there’s probably no position in city government the public cares about as much as the parks, recreation and waterfront director,” Weinberger said.
He said the department’s director is responsible for overseeing programs for kids, as well as beloved community assets such as the bike path and parks.
Wight has 24 years of experience working with parks departments and has served as the director of Rutland’s department for the past four years.
She recently secured funding for a new municipal pool project, through a bond vote that passed with over 70 percent support.
Wight worked in Washington state and Middlebury before moving to Rutland. She said she is excited to work with the parks department staff and larger city team, and is looking forward to becoming part of the community.
An eight-person search committee reviewed more than 50 applications for the job, then chose three finalists.
City Councilor Dave Hartnett, R/D-North District, who served on the hiring committee, commended the city administration’s work regarding community input in the hiring.
Hartnett said Wight was not one of the original applicants, but the committee invited her to apply after a community member suggested her.
He described Wight as a perfect fit for Burlington.
“I just think she was head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to leadership, fitting in the community,” Hartnett said.
Parks Commission member Laura Hale, who also served on the hiring committee, said she was struck when Wight talked about her efforts to plan a new park. The usual people had come to a meeting, rather than a full range those who would be affected. Wight’s response was to move the entire meeting to where the park was going to be, which drew people into the discussion.
“She was both thoughtful and introspective and curious in her leadership, and I think those are all traits that are going to do her extremely well in this role,” Hale said.
Wight is expected to start in Burlington around Oct. 1. She identified her initial priority as meeting with the leadership team to fully understand the city and the recreational facilities.
The department published a master plan in 2015, which Weinberger said can serve as a roadmap for Wight.
Burlington has acquired 12 acres of new parkland from the former Burlington College property and is working to rebuild the bike path, complete a new waterfront park near the skatepark and renovate City Hall Park.
The department is also in talks with the Champlain Housing Trust over leasing a portion of the former St. Joseph’s School, which will house the new Old North End Community Center. The space will be coordinated and staffed by the parks department, along with community partners.
Weinberger has asked the City Council to confirm Wight’s appointment at its meeting Monday.