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Tampa hires Baltimore official as new parks and recreation director

TAMPA — Two years after being asked to turn around the parks department in Baltimore, Greg Bayor is taking on a similar mission in Tampa.

Bayor was named Tuesday to replace Karen Palus, who resigned in December as Tampa's parks and recreation director.

"What Greg's going to bring is a good mix," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said.

In a career of more than 30 years, Bayor, 64, has experience with both big-city and suburban programs, having worked as director of recreation in Montgomery County, Md.

"Some of our parks are a lot more suburban than urban; for example, New Tampa," Buckhorn said. He also praised Bayor's record of building relationships with groups like the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and the Baltimore Ravens.

Finally, it didn't hurt that Baltimore has its own lacrosse program, "which I would like very much to see implemented down here," said Buckhorn, who played the sport at Penn State.

A graduate of the University of Baltimore — where, by the way, he played Division I lacrosse himself — Bayor will be paid $132,000 annually. A start date has not been set, but Bayor will work in an interim capacity until he moves to Tampa, at which time the City Council will consider his nomination.

In Baltimore, Bayor has 215 employees and a $32 million budget. Here, he'll run a department with 485 positions and a budget of nearly $50 million.

When he became Baltimore's recreation and parks director in April 2010, Bayor was told to improve programming and craft a strategic plan for a department that had been cut repeatedly and had morale problems.

Since then, the department has put together a task force of community and business representatives to write a master plan. It is now looking for and has had some success finding private partners to operate its recreation centers, which tend to be small.

In Tampa, he'll come into a department that Buckhorn wants to make more responsive. He said Bayor will need to focus on morale, team-building and "getting everybody focused on what their task is and excited about coming to work."

That's one of Bayor's strengths, said Baltimore City Council member William Cole.

"He's done a remarkable job," said Cole, the chairman of that council's recreation committee. He said Bayor values customer service and expects performance but is approachable and will "sit down and talk with anybody."

"There is not any question that he's leaving us in a much better spot than we were in when he started," Cole said.

Tampa hires Baltimore official as new parks and recreation director 03/13/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 11:27pm]
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