The two finalists for the top job overseeing the East Baton Rouge Parish park system went through a second round of interviews Wednesday as BREC’s governing board neared a decision on replacing Superintendent Bill Palmer, who is retiring.
The parish parks commission board is set to consider making a choice between the two candidates, Carolyn McKnight-Bray of Dallas and Stuart Johnson of Lafayette, at a meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday.
McKnight-Bray, formerly an assistant director of the Dallas parks and recreation department’s east region operations, told BREC board members that she is eager to return to a job in the parks and recreation field.
McKnight-Bray, 55, is executive general manager of business development and procurement services for the city of Dallas, an office that is responsible for developing and implementing the city’s minority and women-owned business enterprise programs, according to a city government website.
McKnight-Bray said she has been out of parks and recreation since October 2009 but had spent most of her career working in that field.
McKnight-Bray, who grew up in Montgomery, Ala., said the idea of managing the parks system in East Baton Rouge Parish holds a strong appeal for her.
“When I look at this community it so reminds me of where I grew up,” McKnight-Bray said. “The need is great to continue to serve people who are cut off from being able to go to country clubs and the kinds of things people with money can do.”
She said that if chosen, her first order of business as superintendent would be to “find out who the main players and who the partners and potential partners are” that are important in building BREC.
McKnight-Bray said she would want to get to know key staff, visit facilities and meet with community groups.
“My initial phase will be focused on understanding this community,” McKnight-Bray said. “You have a good department and good employees, but every department can be improved.”
Johnson, who is an assistant secretary at the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism and is in charge of the Louisiana Office of State Parks, said he believes he would be a good fit for the parish parks department.
He said he has lived in Louisiana for 35 years and “has a strong sense of our people and culture … I think I could do a terrific job for BREC.”
Johnson told BREC board members that, if selected, he would want to spend a “a “lot of time listening” to BREC staff members, commissioners and constituents.
He said he would try to visit all of BREC’s 187 facilities within his first 100 days as superintendent.
Asked about his management style, Johnson said he believes in letting professionals do their jobs. He said he would seek information from “people on the ground, working in the facilities” about what’s going on in them.
Johnson said he would carefully review BREC’s 10-year strategic plan and go after any plans that have not yet been accomplished.
Johnson, 58, holds a master of business administration degree from Loyola University in New Orleans and a doctorate from LSU’s College of Education.
McKnight-Bray holds a master’s degree in education administration from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.
BREC’s board went into executive session to discuss the two candidates after concluding the interviews shortly before 7 p.m.