The River Parks Authority announced Monday evening that Sand Springs Director of Parks and Recreation, Jeff Edwards, will be its new executive director and CEO.
The announcement follows the imminent retirement of long-serving River Parks Authority executive director Matt Meyer.
“After conducting a national search, the search committee has reached a unanimous decision that Jeff is the right leader for the River Parks Authority,” said Marvin Jones, chairman of the authority’s board of directors. “He is highly respected in the community and has an unparalleled work ethic and passion for outdoor recreation.”
Edwards is a Certified Parks and Recreation Professional with 19 years of management experience. He specializes in design, construction, project management, park maintenance, recreation, community events, tax budgeting and long-range planning and fundraising, according to the authority.
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“I’ve known Jeff for about 15 years, and he’s a true parks and recreation professional,” Meyer said. “He’s been a great leader for Sand Springs Parks and Recreation. He is highly respected and brings great energy and character to the organization.
Edwards began working for the City of Sand Springs in 2005 and has led its Parks and Recreation Department since December 2017.
He said Monday evening that he was “sad to leave a workplace where his colleagues truly feel like close family members,” but that the “opportunity to be the next executive director and CEO of Tulsa’s River Parks is beyond exciting to me personally and professionally.”
“I would place this position in the top three jobs in parks and recreation in Oklahoma State,” he said.
Edwards said he was proud to become the third person to lead the River Parks Authority, an entity which began in 1974 under Jackie Bubenik, who was replaced by Meyer in June 2003.
“It’s inspiring because you see stability in it,” Edwards said, adding that he was looking forward to “the opportunity to pursue this passion of mine to provide more to the community – whatever the community I work for”.
“Really, the Arkansas River is what we’re trying to highlight here,” he said, adding that while he’s not trying to “imitate” city or county parks, “we have to be consistent”.
River Parks is a public-private partnership between Tulsa County and the City of Tulsa, which provides the bulk of day-to-day operations funding, with additional funding from private benefactors.
Edwards is a board member and past president of the Oklahoma Parks and Recreation Society and received numerous accolades while working for the City of Sand Springs, including being named Employee of the Year.
Outdoorsman and athlete, Edwards completed the Ironman Tulsa Triathlon in May.
Sand Springs manager Mike Carter said he wished nothing but the best for Edwards.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so we’re really happy for him,” he said, adding that Edwards “will always be a great asset to the city as we partner with River Parks.”
“Knowing that River Parks saw in Jeff what we do is just a testament to who he is.”
Jones said the River Parks Authority board is grateful to Meyer for his “many years of excellent service to the community” and is “excited about the future of River Parks.”
Meyer, who announced his retirement on March 17, said then that he hoped to retire in September but would be prepared to work with his successor for as long as necessary.
Edwards said it looks like that transition will take place over the next month.
“The future is bright (for River Parks),” Meyer said in March. “I’m not leaving because things are bad.”