City Desk

New Parks Director: Ximena Hartsock

At a press conference this morning, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty announced the installation of former D.C. public schools principal Ximena Hartsock as the head of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Hold on–that means someone was fired.

Yes, that was Clark Ray, who was nominated by Fenty in August 2007 to run DPR. True to the administration's workaholic ways, the dismissal wasn't done in accordance with any standard of work-life balance. City Administrator Dan Tangherlini brought Ray in for a talking-to on Sunday evening.

Said Fenty of the abrupt leadership change: "It was very clear we needed to shift gears." He said that the department's programming "needs to go to the next level." Fenty said that Ray would be moving to a job with the Greater Washington Sports Alliance.

As for Hartsock, she was principal of Ross Elementary School in Dupont Circle before getting pulled into the administration of DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee. There, she ran the office of "out-of-school" affairs, managing afterschool, summer school, and Saturday programs—about 30,000 students, said Hartsock. Hartsock faces questions about her suitability for the job, considering that her resume is big on stuff like bilingual education but short on parks stuff. "Managing summer school is like running a school system," said Hartsock at the press conference. Hartsock, a longtime resident of Arlington, will move to the District, as the law requires of agency directors.

At least one onlooker is puzzled by the move: "I just think he was a very responsive director," says Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., who oversees the department. "He set a standard so I don't know what reason the administration had for letting him go.

Fenty was asked whether the dumping of Ray had anything to do with the controversy over his kids' participation in a city basketball rec league. Michael Williams, who administered youth leagues at DPR, claims in a recently filed lawsuit that he was dismissed from his job after raising questions about whether the Fenty children were playing in the proper age bracket.

Hizzoner had no trouble dodging this question. "That's a double no-comment, the first in the administration," he said, referring to the fact that the matter is both under litigation and concerns personnel.

Reporting by Mike DeBonis

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  • Contrarian

    Ray was and is a stand up guy -- see his response on DC Wire RE: his "new" position.

    Ximena is a nice lady - smart too, but I hope they have some people already in place that who know facilities maintenance and capital program side of things. [ohhh, that's right, maybe that will be Alan Lew's new job too]

  • Downtown rez

    Agreed. And he came from the Sports and Entertainment commission, so this could be a good thing.

  • Mike Licht

    The first "no-comment" of the administration?

    Could be ... if evasion and mute stares don't count.

  • Gone for Good

    The staff at the Department of Parks and Recreation are very happy to see Mr. Ray gone. We had no idea how bad it could be before he came but soon learned that he was the worst Director yet. As for the new Director, she'll end up like the others Fenty appointees hired and fired before she knows its so no need to get unpacked. It's time for change in the District and it need to start at the top!!!!

  • Dave McKenna

    I don't live in your world much, MdB, but Clark Ray was the most on-the-ball person i dealt with in DC government. the difference between trying to get correct and honest info from his office and from Rhee's office, for example, was the difference between right and wrong.

    the guy did dress too fancy for recreation, though. i hope that was why he was fired.

  • emrj

    When was the last time they hired an administrator with actual experience in the same field as the agency they are now managing?

  • AJDC

    Not so fast - not all staff are happy to see Mr. Ray leave - he accomplished a lot during his tenure and for once held individuals accountable for the work they were hired to perform. I was shocked one day when he told a staffer - who had commented - "do what you want to me but don't touch my money" - Ray responded - "it is your money only after you earn it - until then it belongs to the District taxpayers."

  • DPR Kid

    Gone for Good in NO WAY speaks for the staff of the Department of Parks and Recreation. Clark Ray is a top notch professional who was well on his way to taking the agency to the top!! Look around the City. If anything, he probably cared too much about the people he served & making recreation a great experience for the all residents of the District.

  • Dont Fall for the Okeedoke

    Does anyone think it strange that a man is fired on Sunday night already has a replacement and a new job yet he knew nothing?

    Why would the Mayor announce where his new job is if he fired him 24 hours before?

    Clark Ray is being primed but needs to break free of this administration's reputation. Pay attention people. Pay attention.
    This is a very complicated game Mr. Fenty plays and it gets better and better every day.
    Beware Mendelson!
    The Art of War in action and no one acknowledges it at all. Come on!

  • Fred

    Speak in plain English, 6:28 pm.

    Clark Ray from my perspective had lots of promise for DPR at first, but honestly I never really saw anything dynamic or fundamentally solid he put in place. He advocated for dog parks over kids' programs, something that set a lot of people's teeth on edge. That was not fundamentally sound policy, but political caving.

    What were his accomplishments?

  • Wrack

    @ Fred: What 6:28 pm means is that Ray is going to run against Mendelson for at-large Council seat... or so the rumors go.

    If Fenty really wants Ray to win, though, he's sure going about it in an odd way: "very clear we needed to shift gears," and "needs to go to the next level," make Ray sound like a failure. So what, 6:28? Fenty is sacrificing his own reputation to get Ray elected by making Ray look like a martyr? How does that separate Ray from Mendelson, who already looks like Fenty has been using him for a punching bag?

  • Fred

    I don't know about that, much. Mendelson (Mendo in silly CP speak) has a few more years, I thought, in his term. I supported him, sort of. But is he running out of steam, ideas? I would not be surprised if he makes this his last term. Time to recharge the old batteries.

    If Ray wants to run agin him, fine. But I would fear a little bit for the future of our beautiful city parks. He'd cave to the singles with dogs in a heartbeat.

  • Charlie C.

    I'm confused. It's clear that some DPR employees are commenting on this blog post. To them I say: What exactly did Ray do that was so bad?

    And what have you done besides sit around various rec centers?

  • Fred


  • AJDC

    Let's talk about basic service - hard to come by in years past - pools opened on time, grass was cut, fields were maintained, new fields were built, artificial turf fields were built - the first in the Agency's inventory new playgrounds were built, a new recreation center was built, basketball courts and tennis courts were resurfaced across the city, yes - those baketball courts even have nets! - some where I saw printed that summer camps expanded from 8,500 to over 13,500 last year. Capital projects division increased spending from 7 million to over 34 million last year - all in all - not bad for 18 months in a position..............

  • Jason Cherkis

    I think AJDC pretty much answered your question Fred. Agency directors also get points in D.C. for what they don't do. Ray wasn't involved in any accounting scandals. That counts for something!

  • Rob

    I like the fact that Hartsock wants to look at programming it would be nice to have more things for my kids to do.

  • Conrad

    Does the Sports Alliance know they hired him??

  • Fred

    # Jason Cherkis Says:
    April 21st, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    I think AJDC pretty much answered your question Fred. Agency directors also get points in D.C. for what they don’t do. Ray wasn’t involved in any accounting scandals. That counts for something!


    Excellent point. But should we add a "yet" there? No, no. Seriously, good point.

    AJDC, thanks for responding. I just wanted to know.

  • Observer

    "...grass was cut, fields were maintained"
    And let's be clear just how fucked up DPR was. Here's an example- Only a few years back not only did DPR not maintain fields but users would actually plead with DPR to be allowed to maintain the fields themselves- out of their own time and pocket. They'd spend thousands of dollars maintaining a city asset that they would then pay to use. And the lucky ones got their wishes.
    What a racket.
    Clark put an end to that.

  • Amused

    So I just received the latest edition of the Current Newspaper - the front cover photo is of a soccer program sponored by the Department of Recreation, a story on the opening of the Cap City Little League and the field improvments with a photo of Clark Ray, players and others, and page three there is an article on renovation work beginning at Guy Mason.........was this guy not really doing his job?

  • Rachel

    Got to say that the quality of summer programs had declined drastically in the past two the point that I and many of my friends had opted NOT to register our children. Sure they were inexpensive, but silly me, I thought a tennis camp ought to involve learning how to play tennis, etc.

  • Local

    In my neighborhood the DC Parks Department has been spending more money on "dog parks" then on recreation for the city's kids.
    We have a rusting playground, and a new tax payer funded dog park being constructed where there was once a nice area to sit and relax at lunch. Now it is exclusive use for dog owners as a city funded toilet.
    As far as I am concerned supporting or kowtowing to single interest groups that take exclusive use of city land and funds makes Clarke Ray exactly the type of manager who should be replaced.

  • Ray

    Ray left DPR in a mess. I heard rumors of staff being fed up with Clark's bad management. Besides Clark, Thomas and Neil Rogers should respond to DPR's crisis. Thomas was very close to Clark in the beginning and used him to build political power against Fenty. Rogers' former experience in DPR allowed Thomas to have the right information against Clark. Lots of dirt will come out now that Clark is gone, we should try to see how things unveil instead looking for ways to save
    Clark. DPR is not a good agency, it is a shame of an agency. Let's be real and not fool ourselves.

  • Washingtonian

    Recretion and Leisure Studies is a profession in which one can acquire a degree. When is someone going to recognize that and put someone in with the requisite skills and abilities to make the agency the premiere one it once was in the country? You say you want/need activities for our youth but the focus is on dogs and catering to Fenty. A school principal? What does she bring to this field that will make it work? When was the last time a DCPR director had a Recreation background?

  • You’re just wrong…

    "DC Parks Department has been spending more money on “dog parks” then on recreation for the city’s kids."

    A typical dog park might cost $80,000, a typical playground might cost $800,000. Also, dog owners are required to maintain dog parks out of their pocket while DPR maintains playgrounds. Look at the contracts and see.

  • Bancroft Teacher

    Dr. Hartsock was a principal a few years ago, for the past two years she has been in Michelle Rhee's team. People that know her understand why she was picked. She is the hardest worker person I've known. She has a gift of inspiring people to work hard and she is very bright. She isn't at fault of this mess. Fenty picked her, like Rhee did because they know she'll do all she can to make it work. Don't confuse her with witch Rhee. Dr. Hartsock is genuine, generous, and works like a machine. I am not defending the abrupt change but I am defending her because she deserves it.

  • Whatever

    Ximena Hartsock and her merry band of what they call a transition team are a joke! What can she offer DC Parks and Recreation when she is a Principal that ran a Public School on Dupont Circle, whoopie! She has a PhD in education, that rhymes with the word recreation but does not make her qualified for the job. Great Ximena and her transistion team are arrogant, condescending and rude! I am a recently terminated MSS employee by Ximena and company who was discounted, dicredited, and not even given an opportunity to show what I can do as a middle manager. The great Ximena and team have decided that tenured, seasoned, mature employees are not worthy to keep their positions. Can anyone say the word omnipotent, Ximena the great! If it sounds like I am taking this personal, I am! Ximena, you stay in tune with that clown, Adrian Fenty, because Dr. Hartsock you too are not the end all, be all. Well, great Ximena, I am going to make sure you DO NOT become the director of Parks and Recreation. GO BACK TO DCPS AND STAY IN ARLINGTON!

  • People Talking

    I will say that it is unfortunate that employees are dismissed, especially when they feel that the dismissal was unjustly done.

    However, as to Dr. Hartsock, I will say that she is an excellent administrator and charismatic leader. Knowing Dr. Hartsock for a while, and even having her as an administrator, I am confident that she will be dedicated to DPR and the city through her service. I am not one that is big on exalting people, but I can not disregard how dedicated Dr. Hartsock is to her job and, most importantly, her staff. He's a hard worker, and she makes sure that things are getting done. She works with urgency, and further requires the same from her staff.

    DPR you have an effective leader. Good luck!

  • People Talking

    "She's a hard worker"

  • Wally

    #26 you are wrong to say the dog park costs 80,000. The friggen real estate is worth a fortune and LIMITED.

    A Ten Year leas on the park that was changed into a dog park would be worth millions -- and unlike a children playground where ANYONE can sit and eat lunch, the dog parks are exclusive to dog owners because of the stink.

    The city spends MORE resources on a given dog park than a kids/general use park when you divide the potential users to REAL costs such as limited real estate and upkeep.

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