Allegra “Happy” Haynes has been named Denver’s Head of Parks and Rec. The East High School grad has served Denver in numerous capacities including as an aide to Mayor Peña in the ‘80s; a city councilwoman throughout the ‘90s; Governor Hickenlooper’s liaison to City Council; and Community Engagement Officer for DPS. She currently serves on the Stapleton Development Corporation and the DPS Board of Education.
Haynes believes her experience has prepared her well for the parks director role in which she will need to listen to and consider a variety of often-conflicting viewpoints about parks issues and weigh them with the greater needs of the community. “Community members engage in the process because they have their own thoughts about how a particular decision or course of action may affect them. That, to me, is part of the consideration in any decision that you have to make, along with the data that may be presented and information that the staff provides. I have long experience in making decisions that are a reflection of a balancing of diverse interests.
“And two things give me a unique position. I have been both on the executive/administrative side of those processes as well as on the legislative side. So I understand those different perspectives.”
Haynes’ first job out of college was to help create an ombudsman office, which is now the Citizen’s Advocate Office—a job that was just the beginning of her many positions that required engaging the community.
Is there any conflict of interest being both on the school board and being director of parks if she is re-elected to the school board? And is there enough time to do both? Haynes says she, like any other member, would recuse herself from any vote where there is a conflict of interest. And she points out that every school board member has another job. The board members work together to schedule their meetings at times that best accommodate all the members.
Haynes says her first priority upon starting her new position will be assessing priorities for the parks department. She’ll start by hearing from staff and work her way through the community, council members and stakeholders. “My anticipation is I’m going to spend the first couple months or so getting a feel for what is happening and what is at the top of people’s minds. From the mayor’s perspective he’s anxious to work on the relationships between the department and the community, and the communication—their expectations about parks. And building an understanding and appreciation for the assets we have, both in parks and recreation.”
Specifically she will be focusing on the My Denver Card—how it’s working, how it can be improved and what’s the next step. And, she says, she’ll also be looking at the next round of capital needs and strategizing about meeting those needs and creating a long term vision.