Civic Center, Recreation departments to merge

Photo by J.D. Sumner

Photo by J.D. Sumner

ALBANY -- In a move meant to fill what City Manager Alfred Lott said was a void in executive leadership at the Civic Center, Lott has consolidated the venue and the municipal auditorium under the umbrella of the city's Recreation and Parks Department.

The move puts Director Suzanne Davis in charge of both venues, he said.

"Effective immediately, the civic center and all of its assets and personnel will fall under the leadership and responsibility of Recreation and Parks Director Suzanne Davis," Lott said. "This isn't a new concept, it's done in other cities...they will become a division of the recreation department."

Lott said the move will create a "super department" within the city, meaning a department with 100 or more employees and that he feels Davis and her subordinates can do the job.

"She's more than capable of handling it, she and her deputy Derrell Smith are doing a great job, they're one of the top five departments in the city, especially when you look at the diversity of the department, they have all the gyms and centers and the golf course, the cemetery and now the civic center and auditorium also," Lott said.

Davis said that she recognizes the complexity of her new assignment but believes in the staff at both the civic center and recreation and parks.

"We're excited. We really believe in smart government and the commitment that government has made to leisure services and event management production," Davis said. "Initially we're going to look at their organizational structure, their vision and their mission to get a feel for what they currently have and where they see themselves going."

Lott did acknowledge that the role will be a shift from what it has traditionally been, whereas previous directors like John Mazzola held a lot of responsibility in recruiting acts to come to down, much of that responsibility will fall now on the staff of the civic center.

That staff has managed to piece together a strong year for both venues --hosting more than 100 concerts, conferences, athletic and civic events without a director.

When the sun rose on the civic center Monday morning, it was a venue without a leader for the third time as the man picked to run it -- Timothy Mabe -- withdrew for personal reasons days before he was supposed to show up for work.

But by 4:30 p.m., when Lott called a press conference in his fifth-floor office, there had been a major shift in the city's organizational structure with Davis on point.

Lott said that Mabe's withdrawal gave him reason to become introspective as he sought to fill the void.

"I looked at the situation and it gave me reason to take a closer look at the organization and a closer look at the need for a director rather than the need for executive supervision...maybe this was an opportunity to consolidate a position and gain some efficiency," Lott said.

Lott has the authority to merge, create or dissolve any city department except for the police department, the fire department or the Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission which are created solely by the city commission by city charter.

Lott does, however, have final authority over the hiring and firing of all city personnel who aren't appointees of the board.