The city of Colorado Springs has selected the interim parks, recreation and cultural services director to lead the beloved and cash-strapped department permanently.
Pending a confirmation vote of the Colorado Springs City Council, Britt Haley, manager of park design and development, will step into her new role ahead of major change for the city because voters will select a new mayor and five city councilmembers in April. The new leadership could set new direction for the department, she noted.
"I think it’s important our department be prepared for supporting the new leadership and their priorities," Haley said.
The city may also ask for an extension of the Trails, Open Space and Parks sales tax in April and, Haley said, she expected a potential question will be her highest priority in the coming months. The question may simply ask voters to extend the .1% dedicated tax without any changes to how the money is distributed within the department, she said.
"I think we have got to balance what voters have told us. ... They definitely support the TOPS program as it is," she said.
Voters rejected a measure last year that would have doubled the dedicated parks tax and dedicated more funding for maintenance.
Haley will also face a major funding backlog for parks projects, estimated at $270 million in 2021 by a third-party study. With so many competing projects ranging from developing new parks to replacing restrooms, Haley said, prioritizing needs and identifying new sources of funding will be key.
Haley has been with parks since 2017 and also brings a legal background to the job. That includes positions such as the corporate division chief in the Colorado Springs City Attorney’s Office, the chief council and chief deputy legal counsel for the Office of the Governor of Colorado, and the assistant attorney general in Denver, among other positions.
Her work as a lawyer prepared her to work on the complex real estate transactions that happen in the parks department, contracting and procurement as well as human resource issues, she said.
In her position as manager of park design and development, she worked on an $8.9 million land purchase of 341 acres in two parcels intended to fund the reclamation of Pikeview Quarry. The reclamation work is currently underway, she said.
As director, she will also have to fill key parks department positions. She will have to hire someone to fill her position as the manager of park design and development and find a new park operations and development manager. Kurt Schroeder retired from the operations and development management position earlier this year and the city is still accepting applications to fill his job, Haley said.
If confirmed, Haley would replace Karen Palus, who left in June after leading the department for 10 years and overseeing complex projects, such as the new Pikes Peak Summit House.