Harvard replaces head of Parks and Recreation

HARVARD – The city has replaced Parks and Recreation Superintendent Bob Burkart after notifying the 19-year city veteran he’d be let go last month.

Harvard officials cited an inability to reach established city goals when making the decision to fire Burkart in mid-January, City Administrator Dave Nelson said. Nelson said City Council members reached a consensus on the move, although Mayor Jay Nolan has ultimate hiring and firing authority.

“In my experience anyway, my employer doesn’t really pull any punches,” Nelson said. “This is what we want to get done – A, B, C, D – and you’re evaluated off the goals you set, and rightfully so.”

Mike Clingingsmith, who directed the Arlington Heights teen center before it was closed for budgetary reasons three years ago, started Tuesday as the department’s new superintendent.

Burkart, who will remain under city contract through the end of the month, voiced his opposition to the decision Friday.

“I’ve always given 150 percent,” he said. “I was always there whenever needed.”

He said the decision took him by surprise, in part because he’d recently been given a positive evaluation.

“When you deal with politics, you have to deal with politics,” he said.

Goals identified for Burkart’s position had been in place for a couple of years, Nelson said. The goals, laid out in Harvard’s most recent budget document, are broken into three categories: communications with administration, financial and programming.

Burkart said parks programs were self-sustaining, but he admitted to falling short of a goal to develop outside revenue sources.

Nelson maintained that there was no one unmet objective that directly led to Burkart’s firing.

“We’d set some goals for the direction that we’d like to see things go,” he said. “We’d evaluated off those goals, and those things just weren’t getting done.”

His replacement will be given the same goals and will be evaluated in the same manner over the next couple of years, Nelson added.

Clingingsmith, who has worked part time at Aero Industries in Harvard since his layoff, said so far he’s been working toward hiring pool staff for the summer. He said he’s excited to work in tandem with other local agencies.

“We need to find a way to do things that are economically viable for both the participants – the residents – and the city here,” Clingingsmith said.

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