Posted January 6, 2020 at 11:53 AM by Amanda Frentz
Business People of the Year: Biz New Orleans Magazine: Introducing the transformative thirteen of 2019
Dr. Robert W. Becker: CEO, CITY PARK IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION
New Orleans City Park’s live oaks and lagoons have witnessed incredible change throughout the park’s 166-year history, but the park is about to close out one of its most challenging and successful eras as Dr. Robert W. Becker — CEO of City Park for almost 20 years — has announced he will retire upon the hiring of his successor, anticipated in the first quarter of 2020.
Becker has served as CEO of the City Park Improvement Association, the entity that runs New Orleans City Park, since 2001. Under his leadership, the park created and began to implement a comprehensive master plan that included land use strategy, projects and programs. That master plan was adopted mere months before the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The levee failure resulted in flooding during which the park lost more than 2,000 trees and Becker and his reduced staff worked from trailers for more than five years before they were able to move back into offices. Becker counts the recovery from Katrina as the most meaningful accomplishment during his tenure at the park.
“It was total devastation…the master plan provided a blueprint for our recovery,” said Becker. “Using the plan and rallying volunteers, corporate donors, nonprofit organizations and state and local government, we worked together to get things back up and running.”
The same year as Hurricane Katrina, the park received its first public operating funds from the state; it wasn’t until 2019 that New Orleanians voted for the first time to include City Park in the distribution of funding from city taxes. These two sources of public funding amount to almost $4 million out of the park’s $22 million operating budget.
“City Park is the principal urban recreation resource in the entire state,” said Becker. “Most U.S. parks are funded 60 to 70% with public dollars. We were successful by telling that story so it resonated with state and local officials and citizens.”
The board of the City Park Improvement Association has engaged a national search firm to find a new CEO, and Becker has offered to overlap with the person to help with onboarding.
“He or she will be able to write their own story. They will be able to get the park to another level of success,” said Becker.
Meanwhile, Becker said he plans to travel with his wife to visit their children and grandchildren and write a book.
“I want to write a history of what we’ve been though in the park for the last 20 years,” he said. “There are a lot of really important lessons about what we learned here about being hit by a disaster. Other parks can benefit from what we learned.”
Original post may be found here.