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Wednesday, March 07, 2018 1:00 am

City parks veteran to head department

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

Steve McDaniel, who has worked for the city nearly 30 years, will be the next director of the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department.

McDaniel will take over April 2 from Al Moll, who announced his retirement in February after 13 years as director, the city announced Tuesday.

“Steve is a dedicated public servant with a strong commitment to meeting the needs of residents and visitors,” Mayor Tom Henry said in a statement. “His experience and expertise, work ethic, communication skills and dedication to implementing best practices position him to be an outstanding director.”

McDaniel started his work with the city as an engineering intern with the parks department in 1992. He was the manager of project administration from 2005-07, and has worked as project representative for the department.

He has been the deputy director of asset management since 2007, overseeing development, utilization, construction and maintenance plans for the city's 86-park system.

He also leads maintenance operations for the city's playgrounds, aquatic centers, pavilions, athletic facilities, trails and pathways and trees, a news release said.

McDaniel said he started working part time at the parks department as a student at IPFW, where he earned a bachelor's degree in construction technology.

“It's an honor for me to advance through the department,” he said. “I'm very honored to be chosen for the position.”

The city interviewed five applicants, city spokesman John Perlich said. Three were parks department employees, and one was from another city department. One was an external candidate.

McDaniel's salary will be $119,000, Perlich said. He made $89,898.40 last year, public records show. Moll's salary last year was $113,424.71.

The department's budget is more than $18 million, with a capital budget of about $8 million.

McDaniel takes over as the city begins the first phase of the riverfront development project. The expansive project includes $26 million in improvements along the St. Marys River. He and Moll are scheduled to give an update on the riverfront Thursday to the Board of Park Commissioners.

City officials lauded McDaniel on Tuesday as the right choice to lead the department.

City Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, is also the executive director of the Headwaters Park Alliance, which works closely with the parks department. He said he's worked closely with McDaniel in both roles.

“I think Steve McDaniel is an excellent choice to lead the parks department,” Paddock said. “From my perspective, I think, it's a logical step up.”

Parks board President Rick Samek looks forward to working with McDaniel.

“I've known Steve for many years and trust and respect his ability to lead and move the department forward in a continued positive direction,” Samek said in the statement. “He will do a great job for our community.”