I am often delighted with the work I get to do, and that delight often comes as the result of collaboration with talented, dedicated people who don’t always receive the credit they so richly deserve. With that in mind, I’m so pleased to share the news that Christopher Williams, acting Superintendent of Seattle’s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), will be honored with the Municipal League 2011 Public Employee of the Year Award. The award recognizes a civic servant who, as an employee of a public body, has brought to the particular service one or more outstanding innovations or constructive programs.
I’ve had the honor of working with Christopher this past year. As chair of the Parks and Seattle Center Committee, I spend a lot of time with him and his department and every day I appreciate Christopher’s contributions even more. He is a leader, in every sense of the word.
Christopher is trusted by his staff, his peers, and by us on the Council. He understands his department like few could, maybe because he grew up in our parks. He often tells stories of how he spent his youth on the very basketball courts that dot our city and he now oversees. Christopher also grew up within Parks. He started his career in this department twenty-eight years ago, rose through the ranks, and now finds himself as the acting Superintendent. He is the epitome of the belief that if you follow your heart, you will succeed. And Christopher is all heart.
As you may know, the City of Seattle faced a tremendous budget shortfall in 2010. We went into the budget process knowing we needed to find $67M in reductions. We also knew that DPR would take a large portion of those cuts. And they did.
Over $10M was cut from this department. It wasn’t easy but it was needed, and Christopher did an excellent job of scrubbing his budget and looking for solutions, and he did it with his head held high.
With a department numbering over 1000 employees, Christopher did a remarkable job of protecting his staff. Hours were cut, but in a strategic manner so that payroll was reduced but essential services could still be delivered. He also was generous, and found ways to retain employees and keep their benefits.
Though news about cuts and rumors of closures could fade staff morale, Christopher has managed to keep the focus on departmental progress and enumerate the accomplishments of the year. As a result, we have a new regional gem in South Lake Union Park, new neighborhood parks like Summit Slope, and open and active Community Centers.
Christopher goes above and beyond with the community – he is fully present at community discussions and takes the slings and arrows with humor. He manages to remain a pillar of strength and a ray of light. He regularly applauds his employees in public, and because of his leadership style which is open and uplifting, he is beloved by his team. He inspires, which is what we need.
The Municipal League of King County’s mission is to promote government that is open, effective and accountable, and to improve the caliber of public officials and the quality of public decisions. This perfectly describes my friend and my colleague, Christopher Williams, and I look forward to honoring him at the awards ceremony in March. Congratulations, Christopher!