New UP Parks Director Seeks National Recognition For Department

New University Park Parks and Recreation Director Sean Johnson hopes to take the city’s parks to the next level with national recognition.

Johnson took over as director of parks and recreation Sept. 1 after former Director of Parks and Recreation Gerry Bradley’s retirement after more than 15 years with the city.

“When I saw the University Park opportunity, it looked like an outstanding opportunity to be able to work in a different community and work with SMU, and work also with Highland Park (ISD),” Johnson said. “What do you add to a park system that already has everything? You get national recognition.”

To that end, he said one of his goals is for the parks department to attain Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Systems accreditation, a designation through the National Recreation and Park Association. 

“It indicates that your agency uses best management practices and meets national standards,” Johnson said. “Less than 1% of park agencies in the country have this designation.”

He said they’re also looking to see if there are additional partnership opportunities with SMU and HPISD.

Prior to coming to University Park, Johnson managed recreational and cultural activities for the city of Lancaster since 2010. Prior to his employment with Lancaster, Johnson was a district manager for the city of Dallas Parks and Recreation Department. 

He holds a bachelor of science degree in recreation and leisure services administration from Texas Tech University and is a member of the National Recreation and Park Association, the Texas Recreation and Parks Society, and the National Forum for Black Public Administrators. Johnson’s civic involvement includes serving on the Dallas Park and Recreation Board and the Greater Dallas Planning Commission.

Johnson was also one of 12 industry professionals recently elected into the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration. 

“Being a public servant is often a thankless job, but being able to be recognized by your colleagues and distinguished members of our profession is more so humbling than anything else. It’s a very humbling experience,” he said.

The Academy is a group of distinguished practitioners and educators who are leaders in the field of parks and recreation. They must have either served for at least 15 years in a high level of administration in a park and recreation agency, as a recognized educator in parks and recreation administration, or they must manage a Parks and Recreation Department for an agency with a population of more than 500,000. 

“The Class of 2020 is a great addition to the Academy,” 2020 Academy President Diane Hoover said.  “It is one of most diverse classes the Academy has ever inducted with professionals and educators from eight different states – all of which have superior career experience and a dedication to improving the quality of life through the provision of high-quality parks and recreation opportunities.” 

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at [email protected]

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