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Fresno names interim parks director but remains tight-lipped on departure of former head

Making the case for fixing Fresno city parks

Sandra Celedon, President/CEO of Fresno Building Healthy Communities, talks on Thursday Jan. 24, 2019, about Measure P, the parks initiative that failed in November, and the need of funding for city parks still remains.
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Sandra Celedon, President/CEO of Fresno Building Healthy Communities, talks on Thursday Jan. 24, 2019, about Measure P, the parks initiative that failed in November, and the need of funding for city parks still remains.

Parvin Neloms Jr. is no long the director of Fresno’s Parks, After school, Recreation and Community Services (PARCS) department.

His last day working for the city was Friday. City officials declined to say whether he was fired or quit, citing personnel rules.

Neloms was hired by Mayor Lee Brand and City Manager Wilma Quan in 2017 after his predecessor, Manuel Mollinedo, resigned. Neloms previously worked in Miami Gardens, Florida, for three years.

Neloms served in the position during a year in which city parks became the No. 1 issue in local politics. During his tenure, the City Council approved a parks master plan and a citizens coalition mounted a campaign for a sales tax to benefit parks and arts.

That initiative, Measure P on the November ballot, got 52 percent support when elections officials said it needed two-thirds to pass. The citizens coalition has sued contesting that interpretation.

Celedon, Brand at odds

Sandra Celedon, CEO and president of Fresno Building Healthy Communities, said it’s unfortunate the city is now devoid a parks director. Fresno BHC is the group that sued the city on Measure P’s outcome.

“Time and time again, the administration has stated that parks are a priority,” she said. “We know that parks are a priority for the vast majority of residents and voters. We are perplexed as to why the administration would disinvest in parks yet again during such a crucial time. The fact that the city can’t keep a qualified long-term parks director is a huge disservice to our community.

“If the city truly values parks, then their actions need to match,” she said. “In order for our city to flourish, our parks system needs substantial investment and dedicated bold leadership, starting at the top.”

Brand said during his time as mayor, the PARCS budget has increased 40 percent.

“If Ms. Celedon thinks she can do a better job running it, then let her apply for the position,” Brand said in response. “It’s easy to heckle from the sidelines when you don’t have to make tough decisions every day.”

Interim director

T.J. Miller will serve as interim Fresno PARCS director while also continuing to work in her current role as director of customer services and analytics.

“T.J. is one of the most respected members of our administration, with proven leadership skills and considerable expertise in organization and solving complex problems,” Quan said in a news release. “We’re fortunate to have someone of her capability to continue the city’s efforts to improve the quality of life for our residents.”

Miller has worked for the city for about a decade and earned a master’s degree in business administration from Fresno State.

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Brianna Calix covers Fresno’s city government for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable, analyze city policy and inform readers how city hall decisions might affect their lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star.

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