City Desk

Fenty Names New Interim Head of Parks and Rec


Jesús Aguirre, the new boss of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), has quite a bit in common with the departing boss, Ximena Hartsock:

1) He's Hispanic;

2) He comes to DPR from a top post in the school system, where he worked as director of school operations; and

3) He's an interim director.

There's more to that third point than meets the eye. When mayors hold press conferences to announce their pick to head an agency, they usually send the name immediately to the D.C. Council for confirmation. Not so in this case, explained Mayor Adrian M. Fenty at a press conference this morning: The administration will wait a while before passing along Aguirre's credentials to the council.

In Fenty's own words: "We will make sure we have exhausted every avenue to make sure the person we submit is the best person for the job."

Odd, huh? Does that mean that the Fenty people don't have confidence in Aguirre? Not necessarily. What it does mean is that the mayor is committed to avoiding a repeat of the nasty showdown that ended with the rejection of Hartsock as the permanent director of the agency.

Hartsock is a Fenty favorite and was hastily placed at the top of DPR in April following the summary dismissal of Clark Ray. The council declined to confirm her appointment in large part because of its frustrations with the whole Fenty way of life—including stonewalling on crucial mayoral-legislative matters and its failure to heed council directives in the recreation realm.

Though Hartsock will no longer be calling the shots at DPR, she has landed a slot as an analyst in the office of the city administrator. Neither Fenty nor City Administrator Neil O. Albert denied that Hartsock is a strong candidate to head up the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp., a quasi-governmental outfit that partners with both public and private entities to fund youth-related programs.

Reporting by Mike DeBonis

UPDATE, 12:20 P.M.: Some initial thoughts from Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., who as chair of the parks committee, played the lead role in derailing Hartsock's nomination: "I don't know much about him; I don't know if he has a recreation background."

Thomas did credit Albert with bringing Aguirre by his office this morning, but, like many a frustrated legislator, he felt he should have had a role in the selection process that he's not exactly entitled to. "I wanted them to work with us to find someone with relevant experience" in a "transparent process," Thomas said.

The "recreation background" thing may or may not be a big deal; Thomas made great hay out of Hartsock's "lack of subject matter experience," and Aguirre likewise doesn't have any particular resume items in the field—he's been in education for his entire career. But, says Thomas, "I don't know if it's automatically a deal-breaker," saying he'd credit experience in "budgets, managing people and programs." That Aguirre certainly has done at DCPS, as the guy charged with making the trains run on time.

The fact that Aguirre is in on an interim basis, Thomas says, also gives him succor. He called upon Fenty to conduct a broader search in the coming months in order to get the "best of the best." —Mike DeBonis

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  • Ward One Resident

    What's with the reluctance to actually conduct a search for a new director outside the city? There are some incredible park systems throughout the country and we might be able to lure someone away to move to our fair city...sigh...I guess time will tell with non-appointment appointment....

  • Ward 5

    I'm guessing the reluctance - or the Fenty administration's hesitance - is the fear of finding a highly qualified person who's not willing to be a doormat.

  • Simon

    "He's Hispanic." Oh well then I guess they MUST have soooo much in common.

  • Jon Bon Jovi

    I hope this guy is a U.S. citizen.

  • Bobby

    Please DC Residents, whats wrong with some of us? The Contracting Office whislte blowers have been screaming loudly that the agency heads have to be puppets of the Mayor. He can't do a nationwide search.. Its against protocal....

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    Another kid from middle school? Is anyone over 15 working at the Wilson Bldg? No adults down there, & we have Jersey punks snapping towels in the locker room here.

    Is he as pretty as Ximena?

  • Marciela

    If Jesus Aguirre is so great, why is Rhee so willing to let him go?

  • Just asking

    Ward One Resident asks: "What's with the reluctance to actually conduct a search for a new director outside the city?"

    Why would such a person want to come to DC and find himself or herself in the middle of a food fight between the Mayor and Council even before being confirmed for the job?

    Riddle me that one, Ward One Resident!

  • Grace Jones

    I have to agree with Angry Al Gonzalez, Fenty loves to hire children without experience.

  • veronaz

    He's married to the principal of Rhee's kids' school, Oyster School. DC is becoming such a small town it's suffocating.

  • proballdc

    Unfortunately, Fenty's M.O. is to hire yes-people. I believe he is intimidated by highly qualified, competent leaders who are masters within their professions. Rather, he prefers them to bow down to his whimsical style of governing which is like a cheap trinket wrapped within an elaborate gift box. Once you tear the fancy outer layer away, the substance remains a cheap trinket.


    Well at least he won't be his WIF'S boss anymore as he was in DCPS!

  • sedcdude

    Damn, how hard can it be to find a QUALIFIED AND COMPETENT individual to direct the dept that provides children and adults with quality recreational and leisure activities....stupid ass administration!

  • veronaz

    Fenty must secretly wish NOT to be re-elected.

  • Anonymous

    "DC is becoming such a small town it's suffocating."

    DC has always been a small town but it's only been about five or six years since the 'net has proven that, in spades.

    That's part of every administration's problem--too few qualified folks to pick from, so you wind up sticking with your frat brothers and campaign bundlers because you can "trust" them.

  • ron

    I,am sick and tired of Fenty and will not vote for the wife beater he came a school fuction to get votes when for ward councilman and mayor. His problem is piss poor judgement in selecting people to head the different depts.
    Exsample is Gandi, Rhee,Harstak who has language problem
    she doesn,t speak american well and has no background in recreation bad choice,Gandi the Williams hold over should
    have been fired.Rhees selection was an unqualifed school
    head. You mean to tell me that there was one dc school system that could run the schools with ness.job skills to do the job.
    thats why she can,t be the supt. you need to a PHD. she doesn,t have it. there are lot people in this guys admim that are not qualifed to run the city,s depts Iam not too nieve to understand the politics Fenty is a bad admin.
    please don,t run again.