The city of Burbank is losing an enthusiastic public servant and dedicated team builder with the departure this week of Garth Nelson as deputy director of the Park, Recreation and Community Services Department.
The 58-year-old Nelson, who served as deputy director for nine years, worked his last day with Burbank on Tuesday, as he has accepted a job leading the Community Services and Recreation Department in the city of Fontana. He will start in Fontana on July 21.
Nelson said he was intrigued by the job because Fontana has recently undergone significant growth and development, and is in the process of building several new community facilities.
“The challenge for me will be to enhance the delivery of healthy, wholesome, family-oriented programs and services,” he said.
As he leaves Burbank, Nelson said it was the people — both those he worked with and those in the community he helped serve — that he will remember best.
“As always, it’s the people that make the difference,” he said.
During his time in Burbank, Nelson helped revitalize the sponsorship program at the Starlight Bowl and worked to implement an initiative to honor local residents actively serving in the military by printing their names on street banners hung downtown, said Kristen Smith, a recreation services manager for the city.
He also built strong teams of city staff, she said.
“We all work really well together,” Smith said.
“There’s going to be a void there that we need to fill.” Nelson’s support for the community is evident, and he’s always the one asking the question — How will this benefit the community? said Cathryn Villalobos, a recreation supervisor with the city.
“He instills in us that these programs are for the community,” she said.
He has brought a wealth of experience to the job, as well as clear enthusiasm for what he is doing, said Chris Dasté, director of the Park, Recreation and Community Services department.
“Garth has a passion for what he’s doing,” Dasté said. “He loves being collaborative with the public. He loves working with other entities to get things done.”
Nelson also plays multiple sports, so he brought a participant’s perspective to the job, Dasté said.
For Nelson, his tenure in Burbank was about refining systems and operations to support strong existing programs, he said.
“Burbank has had a long tradition of great programs and activities,” he said.
Strengthening the sponsorship program at Starlight Bowl has allowed the city to improve the customer service and lineup of talent at that facility, Nelson said.
He helped bring to fruition George Izay Park’s Walk of Fame, which honors locals who have made significant contributions to sports and athletics.
That project had been in the works for years, but Nelson helped it get off the ground, Burbank City Manager Mary Alvord said.
“Garth finally got all the sides together, and everyone focused,” she said.
The city plans to recruit internally for applicants to fill Nelson’s post, Dasté said.
City officials hope to have chosen a candidate by the first week in August.