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Louisville Metro Parks Director Mike Heitz to Retire

A national search is on to find a replacement for Mike Heitz, who is retiring after 12 years as director of Louisville Metro Parks.

Mayor Greg Fischer announced Heitz's retirement Wednesday in a news release.

As director of Metro Park, Heitz was "instrumental" in developing the Louisville Loop cycling and pedestrian path, as well as renovations and expansions to facilities at parks including Shawnee, Chickasaw and Charlie Vettiner, according to the release.

"It's been very rewarding for me to see all these projects happen and have one of the best park systems in the country," Heitz said in an interview.

He is a Louisville native and began working with the Louisville parks department in 1973. After a 20 stint as a parks director in Austin, Texas, he returned to lead Louisville's park department.

His annual salary is $118,843.40, according to a city database.

He added that running a city park system is not short of challenges—diminishing budgets have been a constant issue, he said.

"Except for the last two years our budgets have been slashed, the last two years it has bottomed out," he said.

He said a successful park director needs to be a "generalist."

"There's so much invovled with being a parks director," he said. "You have to know about capital projects, recreation programs, recreation facilities, turf management, the golf courses, the swimming pools, the playgrounds, the spraygrounds. It's very diverse."

Heitz tenure was not without controversy.

Still, Fischer touted Heitz work on behalf of Louisville.

“Mike has been an excellent visionary leader for our parks," Fischer said in a news release. "Through his leadership, our city’s parks added new features, new activities and became more accessible and engaging for all of our citizens.”

Heitz hopes his successor will continue working to complete the projects already underway so "they can be completed in a timely manner."

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.