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Olmsted Parks Leader is Leaving

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Western New York is losing one of its highly-regarded cultural leaders. The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy announced the departure of Chief Executive Officer Johnathan Holifield. He leaves in November to lead the Urban League of Greater Cleveland.

Holifield said his new position is an extraordinary opportunity to work on diversity programs and urban planning in Cleveland. But Holifield has already left quite a legacy in Buffalo.

By the time Holifield came on the scene last year, the once glorious Olmsted system had suffered mightily for years under storms of financial neglect. The budget crisis of 2004 left the Conservancy especially vulnerable. So, there was little left to deal with the ravages of the surprise October storm.

But Holifield is credited with weathering it all. And with building the support needed to bring back the Olmsted vision.

Although it was a difficult decision, Holifield said he leaves knowing the Conservancy is trending in a positive direction.

Holifield said he expects that the Conservancy board will be looking for someone who can continue the momentum. But he said there remain big challenges ahead. And he said nurturing relationships with public officials will be crucial, to maximize scarce resources.

Holifield singled out Mayor Byron Brown as "a genuine and passionate supporter of the parks." Holifield said Brown came through with resources for storm clean-up and to offset the need for proposed, controversial fees.

Details of the search to find Holifield's replacement are expected soon. Click the "listen" icon above to hear Joyce Kryszak's story now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.