CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley has named his two picks to oversee the future of the city’s parks system during its biggest leadership shake up in years.
Cincinnati City Council still needs to approve Cranley's two picks for the Cincinnati Board of Parks Commissions before they can take the helm.
If approved, Brad Lindner and Linda Lee Thomas will join the board during a critical time: The board is expected to name a new director this year, after longtime parks director Willlie Carden retires this spring.
And while the parks system has faced big triumphs, such as unveiling Smale Riverfront Park, the agency has also been dogged with questions about transparency and ethics.
Council is expected to consider their appointments during a regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday.
WCPO talked with Cranley’s two choices, Brad Lindner and Linda Lee Thomas, about their hopes for Cincinnati Parks.
Here’s what they had to say:
WCPO: Why are you interested in joining the Cincinnati Parks Board?
Brad Lindner, CEO of United Dairy Farmers: I’ve pretty much been in Cincinnati all my life and love the town. The parks are really outstanding jewels in the city. I’ve always had an affinity for nature, outdoor spaces … it’s really good for the soul, for people to get out in a green, natural space and enjoy what’s out there.
Linda Lee Thomas, retired Procter & Gamble researcher: I retired a few years ago with really no plan. I started to get more involved in our community. While I had been working, I was so consumed by my work, I paid very little attention to what was happening in the community. … I worked very vigorously on a program in Avondale … that got me energized with looking at other things.
The mayor asked me if I would consider this position and it sounded like a good opportunity.
I remember I came to Cincinnati right out of college. I was taken on a tour of the city and one of the things they showed me were the parks. I was so impressed with that. The parks are incredible assets to our city that we ought to protect, ought to grow.
WCPO: In recent months, the board and administration have faced questions surrounding transparency and ethics. How do you hope to turn that around?
Thomas: I don’t know all the details but based on what I’ve heard, I believe there’s opportunity … we can all benefit from greater transparency and for doing things consistent with rules. How can we be transparent so people know exactly what it is we’re going to be doing?
Lindner: Because of the last year or so, there’s been some turmoil. I’m all about not getting turmoil-ed. (Laughs.)
I’m hoping going forward that is all put behind us. I’m all about being transparent and working within the confines of the rules and the law.
Having just come off the board of JobsOhio (a nonprofit tasked with luring businesses to Ohio and funded through the state’s liquor profits), transparency was highly stressed. We were schooled; every year we had to go through an ethics seminar. I think that’s been engrained in me.
WCPO: Are there any parks or areas you would like to see the Parks Board focus on, like they did with Smale Riverfront Park?
Lindner: The one that comes to mind is Mount Airy Forest (the city’s largest park). Whenever you’ve got the largest of anything, I see that as an opportunity to capitalize on.
Thomas: I remember when people wouldn’t go to Washington Park and now it’s phenomenal. What has happened with Riverfront Park and Washington Park is unbelievable. It would be important to look at the entire system and say, how can we reproduce the kind of success that we’re seeing in Washington Park and Riverfront Park?
WCPO: What change or new perspective will you bring to the board?
Thomas: I don’t want to get ahead of myself. What I need to do is get on the board, as soon as that goes through, I need to get on the board and understand what the issues are that are relative to the parks and figure out: How can we creatively bring that vision to reality?
Lindner: I’m not sure what I can bring other than a commitment to do what I think is best for the city, best for the parks. I’m just thrilled I’ve got an opportunity to participate in an organization that is as fine as Cincinnati Parks is. Parks is a huge opportunity; we don’t have mountains, we don’t have an ocean – we’ve got a river and some beautiful parks and green spaces.
Interviews have been edited and condensed.