Kevin Briski, the controversial head of Madison's parks division, is stepping down. His last day with Madison will be June 13, says Katie Crawley, an assistant to Mayor Paul Soglin. Briski is leaving the city to accept a job as leisure services director in Melbourne, Fla., starting July 1.
The city will conduct a national search to find Briski's replacement, says Crawley. Eric Knepp, assistant parks superintendent, will serve as acting supervisor until then, she says. Briski is off this week and could not be reached for comment.
Since he took the job in June 2008, Briski has been involved in numerous controversies, including the departure of several longtime parks employees and imposition of a gag rule on employees. Under his tenure, the parks division was involved in spats over the management of facilities, such as the parks' reservation system for shelters; Goodman Pool; prairie gardens and the elimination of golf pros.
Ald. Mark Clear acknowledges the controversies, but says they resulted from changes Briski needed to make.
"It has a lot to do with the environment he came into. The parks division was a mess when he came in," Clear says.
"Kevin has made a lot of changes; a lot of them were very painful, but needed to be done."
Some of those changes, such as getting rid of the city's golf pros, Clear argues, have proved to be the right move. "He saw a situation [with golf pros] that was not sustainable, and he saw a better way to serve the public," Clear says. "It proved to be successful, but there was a lot of pain along the way."
In a statement to Isthmus, Mayor Soglin praised Briski's stewardship: "Our parks system is a gem in the city, and overseeing its maintenance and expansion has been a challenging job. Kevin has more than exceeded my expectations. I am grateful for his service and wish him and his family well as he moves on to new challenges."