Public Life Is an Essential City Service: Reimagining Recreation and Parks as Integral to the Development of Your City

10/28/2020 4:30 p.m. EDT

Session Type:  Education Session (1 hour)

Track: Advocacy


In the summer of 1968, American cities experienced riots and unrest sparked from centuries of racial discrimination. Akron, Ohio, was no different. In response, city of Akron leaders convened a task force to recommend pathways toward a more equitable community. Investment in recreation and parks were top priorities and municipal leaders at the time responded. It had been 40 years since the city last reviewed that plan, when Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan launched a plan to unify all municipal departments that impact development. Through that process, a reinvigorated Division of Recreation and Parks joined planning, engineering, development to form the Office of Integrated Development (OID). This session will guide participants through the community co-creation process used to create OID, and how Division of Recreation and Parks leads on development within the city.


Learning Outcomes:

Participants will be able to compare their own organizational structure to OID and evaluate if a similar structure would benefit their organization

Create an understanding of how strong Recreation and Parks align with city economic development goals

Demonstrate an appreciation for the power of co-creation and community engagement in strategic planning that participants can apply in their organization



Brittany Schmoekel

Recreation and Parks Manager, City of Akron, Ohio

Brittany Schmoekel has more than 17 years of experience with the city of Akron, Ohio, in the Recreation and Parks division. She speaks often to community groups and organizations about the revitalization and restructuring of the division and the focus they have on public space and public life that encourage deeper connections within the community.


James Hardy

Chief of Staff and Deputy Mayor for Integrated Development, City of Akron, Ohio

James Hardy manages the Mayor’s Cabinet and oversees the newly created Office of Integrated Development. His previous roles include assistant director of community health at Summit County Public Health, special assistant to the president and board at Kent State University, a regional director for Ohio Secretary of State, and executive office intern for former President Bill Clinton. In addition, Hardy served six years on the Akron Board of Education.

Return to Schedule