Doug Ehman, Parks Division Manager, City of Charlottesville
Where were you born (and raised, if different)?
I was born in Traverse City, Michigan, and I was raised in the southwest corner of the state in a little town called Stevensville, right on Lake Michigan and across the lake from Chicago.
When and why did you move to the Charlottesville/Albemarle area?
I moved to Charlottesville in the fall of 2010 to accept my current position.
What neighborhood do you live in now?
Originally we lived just outside the city limits near Fashion Square Mall. Then we purchased a home in Waynesboro and that is now on the market and we’re hoping to get back to C’ville.
Family (spouse, kids, etc.)?
My wife, Laura, is a fantastic lady who volunteers at Community Christian Academy. My son, Doug, is the Business Process Developer/Sustainability Manager for Southern Champion Tray and lives in Chattanooga with wife Joanna, who is the varsity women’s volleyball coach at Covenant College.
What is your alma mater and when did you graduate?
I’ve got three: A.S. in Biology & Applied Ecology, Lake Michigan College. 1972; B.S. in Forestry/minor in civil engineering from Michigan Technological University, 1975; and M.S. in Recreation Resources Development/minor in urban geology from Texas A&M University, 1977.
What were you doing before you came to work for the city?
I was the Bureau Manger for Landscape and Urban Forestry for the City of Norfolk. Landscape management included mowing, beds maintenance, beach operations, trash and garbage collection, and new construction. Urban forest operations included: all street and public area trees, storm response, tree replacement program, Tree Ordinance implementation and enforcement, and field and container plant nursery operation.
Your job title is Parks Division Manager – what, in your own words, would you say you do?
The Parks Division is responsible for park land acquisition, planning, construction, renovation and operation. This includes much of the trail system in the city. We also mow the rights of way, plant and maintain the flower beds and mall pots, trim plants and maintain public trees and maintain the mall and corner. I like to say we keep the city looking good and playing safe. Almost forgot, we also shovel snow and we support every kind of special event you can think of. I’m the ring master, problem solver or conductor, depending on the day and sometimes the hour!
What is the best part of your job? The most difficult part?
The best part is that, by and large, I’ve got good staff that can get things done; that’s a gift from God. I’ve been places where I didn’t have that and it made for a rough go. There is also good diversity in the type of projects that cross my desk; you’re not doing the same thing day in and day out.
The most difficult part is that there are very high expectations and, unfortunately, limited resources, so requests are handled in the order they were received unless it is an emergency. Most folks are very gracious and understand, but the few that are not make things difficult as we attempt to accommodate them. We’ve got a lot going on: projects, seasonal work, daily and other cyclical work, emergencies and requests. It complicates things tremendously when you need to jiggle things to accommodate an individual or group of folks that believe they’re an exception.
How does your job most directly impact the average person?
Virtually every resident of the city and visitors are impacted by what my staff and I do. The Parks Division is charged with keeping parks neat, clean and safe, the public areas and schools mowed, the trees and flower beds maintained, purchasing land and planning for future parks and maintaining the public areas on the Mall and Corner. So if folks have ever been shopping or eaten on the Mall or Corner, played on a playground, had their child run on the grass at recess or in a park, walked trails or participated in basketball, baseball or tennis, admired the flowers, which at the moment are tulips, or the trees along the roadways, that’s us. We’re the guys you never see but are always around.
What is the most interesting project or work experience that you’ve had while with the city?
Simply the huge diversity of what I get involved in is interesting. The East McIntire master planning process was very insightful. Parks is currently in the process renovating Azalea Park and hopes to soon begin on Rives Park. Both of these projects involve a wide variety of contractors and staff, coupled with heavy community participation. You’ve really got to pull all the pieces together and build it as you go. Not unlike a huge Lego’s project.
What is a little-known fact about you?
I designed drills and arranged music for drum and bugle corps, and I also used to work as a studio musician and played in various bands.
What do you do outside of work hours – hobbies, etc.?
I really like to spend time with my wife. We’re at that point in life where it’s just good to be together. I like to putter in the yard and engage in related activities. I’m also a student of history and really love to read on a wide variety of topics, but there is not a lot of time for that right now.