Chris Ward Named Director of Oakland County Parks and Recreation
(Oakland County, Nov. 11, 2021)
Oakland County Deputy County Executive Chris Ward has been named Parks Director for Oakland County Parks and Recreation. He is expected to assume his new role November 15.
Ward was unanimously approved by the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission at its special meeting on Nov. 9. The Oakland County Board of Commissioners unanimously confirmed the appointment at its Nov. 10 meeting.
He replaces Daniel Stencil, who retired in March after 42 years of service to the parks system.
As Deputy County Executive for Oakland County, Ward reported to Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter and was responsible for strategic policy initiatives, liaison to Board of Commissioners and countywide elected officials and state/federal policy development.
Ward has also worked as the Chief of Staff/Administrative Director and Senior Policy Analyst for the Oakland County Board of Commissioners. He also served as State Representative for the 66th District (2003-2008) and Brighton Township Clerk.
“I’m thrilled that the Oakland County Parks and Recreation department has chosen an excellent new director in Chris Ward. I’m thankful for his outstanding service as my deputy executive and liaison to the Board of Commissioners this year and congratulate him on what has to be one of the best jobs in Oakland County, directing our wonderful system of parks,” Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter said. “I’d also like to thank Sue Wells for her tremendous dedication to the parks system for more than three decades, including serving as the interim director. I wish her a safe, healthy and adventurous retirement.”
Wells, who has served the parks system for 33 years, was named the Interim Executive Officer in March 2021, and will be retiring after Ward is acclimated to his new role. She was previously the Manager Parks and Recreation.
Parks Commission Chairman Gary McGillivray is pleased with the selection of Ward for the position.
“Chris Ward is a competent leader and I look forward to working with him and our parks commission on new initiatives and grant programs we will soon be implementing,” McGillivray said. “This next chapter for the parks system will focus on doing more to serve our residents and Chris is the person to help the commission and staff move forward.”
Ward called the OCPR 14-park, 7,000 acres system a “tremendous asset that is highly valued” by the people of Oakland County.
“It has been profoundly evident during these past two years of the global pandemic that our county parks have been a lifeline for so many, providing a safe place to recreate, socialize and restore mental and physical health,” Ward said. “The critical role parks played at this time is also a reminder of the serious implications and long-term consequences of systemic inequalities in access and enjoyment of recreation.”
OCPR provides nearly 80 miles of trails, parks, campgrounds, dog parks, golf courses, nature centers, a farmers market, an ORV park plus year-round programming and special events. The parks system is used by more than 2 million residents and visitors annually.
The system employs 78 full-time and 500-600 seasonal employees. OCPR’s approved budget for fiscal year 2022 (Oct. 1, 2021-Dec. 31, 2022) has been approved at $34,197,675 by the Oakland County Board of Commissioners. The budget will focus on projects that maintain park sites such as roof and HVAC replacements, road paving and maintenance and golf course irrigation.
As part of OCPR’s commitment to voters, who approved a 10-year millage renewal and increase in 2020, the parks system provides free annual vehicle permits for seniors (62+), veterans, active military, and individuals with permanent disabilities. Currently in progress are granting programs for trails and local park improvement projects and natural resources management projects for Oakland County’s cities, villages, and townships.
The parks system is funded by .35 mills to improve, operate, and maintain parks, open space and water areas, trails and recreation activities. The cost to the owner of a home or business with a market value of $200,000 (taxable value of $100,000) is approximately $35/year.
“I’m looking forward to working with the dedicated team of professionals on the staff at OCPR. They have a well-deserved reputation in innovation and excellence and for serving the public,” Ward said. “I’m excited to see what this next chapter will provide to the citizens of Oakland County.”
A resident of Waterford Township, Ward has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Cleary University.
He has three grown children and two grandchildren. In his leisure time, Ward enjoys hiking, kayaking, cycling, camping and rock/fossil collecting.
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