Howard, who celebrated 17 years with Blue Ash on Wednesday, said she had “to go for this” job after reviewing the job description requirements and feeling that “every single one of them had my name.”
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“If I was going to leave Blue Ash, it would be for Fairfield,” she said. “I’m excited to bring a new look to Fairfield, a new energy and we’ll move together as a community.”
Howard couldn’t hide her excitement after the Fairfield Parks and Recreation Board approved her hiring on Tuesday. The position is the only department manager for which the city manager must get a board or commission’s approval.
“I guess since it’s official, I don’t think I can wait two weeks to put my notice in to get to work on all the things we have to start focusing on,” she said. “I’ll probably start doing that tonight (Tuesday).”
Howard said she will give a month’s notice because she is one of the executives within Blue Ash’s Parks and Recreation Department and oversaw a number of projects, including a destination park in Blue Ash that opened in August 2014.
Howard replaces Jim Bell, the former parks director who retired in April after 40 years with the city, more than 30 of them as the parks director. Howard is also the third full-time parks director in the city’s history. The first was Joe Weldon, who served in the 1970s and left in 1986.
Howard’s first priority will be to get a list of priorities outlined as she begins the new job.
“Being new obviously to the community, as well as to this position, there is a lot for me to become familiar with, to learn the Fairfield way,” Howard said.
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One of those projects will be overseeing the development of Marsh Park, which like Summit Park in Blue Ash was essentially a blank slate before the project began.
“That is exciting for me because in Blue Ash what we (did) with Summit Park, I can bring what we’ve done in that process to how we plan Marsh Park,” she said. “I know I’m not going to be the sole person so it would be really fun as a team to get together and just look at the possibilities for that.”
Other priorities will be the development of the dog park at Black Bottom and Harbin Park’s redevelopment.
Working for a local municipality was an important factor in hiring Howard, Wendling said.
“I think that was a factor in that she does know the area, so she understands a little bit about Fairfield and what we’re trying to do,” said Wendling. “She really seems has a great sense of how to promote parks programs, parks initiatives.”
Howard was one of six to be interviewed for the job, and one of 105 people from around the country who applied. Wendling decided Howard was the pick this past weekend, and called her into the final step of the process: approval by the Fairfield Parks and Recreation Board.
Howard will start out making $105,000 a year.
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This is the sixth new department manager Wendling has hired since being named city manager in 2015. He hired two assistant city managers — one to replace him when he was promoted to city manager — a police chief, public utilities director and director of development services. Just last month, the city’s finance director left for a new job in Hamilton County.
All but two hires were the result of a retirement.