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Patrick Sullivan, Longtime Executive Director of Parks, Buildings and Recreational Management to Retire after Illustrious 37 Year Career - Chief of Staff Tom Ashe Tapped to Become New Cabinet Head -

|   City News

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno announced today that Patrick Sullivan, longtime Executive Director of Parks, Buildings and Recreational Management (PBRM), is ready to call it a career.

After an illustrious career spanning over 37 years, it is with mixed emotions that we announce the retirement of our esteemed Executive Director of Parks Buildings and Recreation Management, Patrick Sullivan. Patrick began his dedicated service in May 1987, working under then-Mayor Richard E. Neal, and has since been an integral part of our city's growth and development.

Throughout his remarkable tenure, Patrick has worked with seven mayors, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of our city. His tireless efforts have resulted in the enhancement of over 50 neighborhood parks, securing more than $400,000,000 in park grants and in-kind projects. Patrick's vision and commitment have transformed our parks into vibrant spaces that enrich the lives of our residents.

Sullivan has been an integral part of Mayor Sarno’s administration, spearheading numerous projects and initiatives throughout the city from neighborhood parks, school buildings, fire stations, library buildings, athletic fields, and the City of Springfield’s environmental and climate action and resiliency plans.  In total, Sullivan has overseen over $111 million in park construction projects, improved conditions at city ponds and lakes, overseen more than $1 billion in new schools built and school renovation projects including roofs, windows, boilers and environmental management systems, and supported the various recreational programs from aquatics, afterschool and summer enrichment, open gym programs, Movies in the Park, Concerts in the Park, and public skating, just to name a few. 

Sullivan has received numerous local, state and national recognition for his leadership and efforts.  In 2020, Sullivan received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the United States Environmental Protection Agency for his dedication and commitment to protect our environment and enhance energy efficiency initiatives.   

Mayor Sarno states, “Bitter-sweet, Patrick Sullivan, aka my ‘Wizard of Oz’, has always been my ‘Green Person’, a visionary and practical leader who has not only spearheaded a wide variety of projects and initiatives to enhance the local environment for our residents and business community, but also worked hard to help ‘the bottom line’ of our budget too.  Simply put, there was no one better – he has left an indelible mark on our parks and on our city.” 

“Pat’s compassion and love for our beautiful neighborhood parks, especially our world renowned and nationally acclaimed historic Forest Park is second-to-none.  Patrick was also instrumental for me and my administration during the natural and man-made disasters that hit our city.  From the 2011 EF-3 tornado to more recently the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, Patrick was on the frontlines with me to assess the situation, find a plausible solution and help implement our recovery and relief aspects.  Patrick oversaw all of the lifesaving and necessary environmental and air quality renovations to all of our municipal buildings, including our schools.  Together we have overseen the construction of new schools, fire stations, libraries, and neighborhood parks.  Thank you, Patrick for your friendship and years of dedicated service.  Congratulations my friend, the legacy you leave behind will be remembered for generations.  On behalf of the City of Springfield we wish you good health on a well-deserved retirement,” said Mayor Sarno.  “P.S., don’t be surprised if you see Pat handling a special project or two for me, especially our horticultural center initiative.” 

Congressman Richard E. Neal said, “As a Mayor, you could not ask for a better public servant to work alongside you than Patrick Sullivan. In 1987, I appointed Pat to serve as the Parks Director – a position he would go on to hold over the course of 37 years and seven different administrations. Whether it is the gem that is Forest Park, the soon-to-be refurbished Walker Stadium, or any one of the 51 parks throughout the City of Springfield, Pat’s commitment to serving the Springfield community is evident in his work. He has been a true steward of the treasures that make our parks system what it is today. I wish him a long, happy, and healthy retirement, and thank him for his many years of dedicated service. Congratulations from the United States of America.”

One of Patrick's notable achievements is the longstanding collaboration with former Sheriff Mike Ashe and current Sheriff Nick Cocchi over 27 years. This partnership not only led to significant improvements in the park system but also instilled pride among those individuals participating in the work program. The impact of this collaboration extends beyond physical improvements, fostering a sense of accomplishment and rehabilitation.

Patrick's influence extends to the innovative programs he initiated, such as the Commonwealth's first splash pad program, now boasting over 20 sites in the city. His collaboration with the Spirit of Springfield in developing the 30-year run of Bright Nights at Forest Park, has resulted in one of the top five lighting displays in the country and the largest in New England.

In 2004, Patrick took on the role of managing the city facility division. Working closely with Mayor Sarno, he played a pivotal role in completing over $1 billion in school building repairs and an additional $200 million in municipal projects. Under his leadership, both the parks and facilities departments saw improved services, the implementation of an illegal dumping program recognized by the DEP, the creation of a wood waste transfer station, and enhanced forestry operations.

Career highlights also include: Created the city’s first organic lawn care program, collaborated to rebuild the two high hazard dams - Van Horn and Water Shops Pond Dams, authored the park vehicle entrance program which is credited for saving Forest Park, created a new Entrance to King Phillips Stockade so the residents of Springfield could enter this part of Forest Park, reopened school gyms in the mid 1990’s creating the city’s afterschool and enrichment program, worked with the DEP in coordinating the use of trail cams to catch illegal dumpers, implemented the Commonwealths largest ESCO program ultimately saving the city 30 percent in fuel costs realizing hundreds of millions of dollars saved, created work order system for facilities to create timely repairs for school buildings, initiated green cleaning in our schools reducing the asthma rates, worked with Katherine Craven, former Director of the  MSBA and was the first city chosen to initiate the Green Repair program for schools in the Commonwealth, collaborated to improve the water quality of our lakes and ponds, collaborated to construct the Commonwealths first storm compliant Forestry Operations Center,  worked closely with the Sarno Administration in the managing of our school and municipal buildings roofs during the 2011 winter snows followed by the cleanup and replanting of our city trees from the aftermath of 2011 Tornado and October snowstorm.  Finally, over his career he worked closely with each of the city’s 17 neighborhood councils to develop park master plans for each of the neighborhood parks and implemented the plans to fruition.

Patrick's dedication and passion for preserving our city's heritage are evident in his involvement in saving iconic structures such as the Barney Carriage House, Walker Grandstand, and the Monkey House from demolition. Restoring the integrity to Forest Park and the amenities offered there. His commitment to environmental stewardship was recognized on two occasions, in 2016 was awarded the EPA Environmental Merit Award and in 2020 when Mayor Sarno nominated him and was chosen for the EPA Lifetime Achievement Award.

On a personal note, Patrick expresses his deepest gratitude to his wife Nancy for her constant support and encouragement throughout his career. He acknowledges his daughters Meghan, Marykate, and Molly, and his son Robert, for their inspiration and participation in testing new playgrounds and enjoying countless rides through Bright Nights.

Patrick Sullivan stated, “I want to thank Mayor Sarno for his belief, trust and vote of confidence in my abilities to lead the Department of Parks, Buildings and Recreational Management, and I want to thank Congressman Richard Neal, who first hired me 37-years ago when he served as mayor.  I also need to thank the men and women of the Department of Parks Buildings and Recreation Management, it is due to their daily efforts, that allowed me to succeed in my career. I am forever grateful to have worked with a group of individuals that have tremendous talent and the ability to share that talent in their work on a daily basis. It is because of these amazing individuals it never felt like a job but a second family. A special thank you to my two Deputy Directors Peter Krupczak and Jon Carignan, City Forester Alex Sherman, Park Office administrators Carol Langevin, Kathy Calvanese and Maureen Shea, Park Craftsman John Bilodeau, and Assistant Park Director Tom Dougal.  You all go above and beyond and your efforts and support to me has been invaluable. To all the past employees who retired before me, you laid the ground work for our department’s success.  It has been an honor and a privilege to work for my home city of Springfield.  It has been a dream to work within our beautiful Forest Park.  I am proud of all of the accomplishments we have accomplished throughout my career, especially restoring the integrity back to Forest Park, the Creation of Bright Nights of Forest Park and the rebuilding of our high hazard dams, just to name a few.  I was very lucky to have my career book end by two men who have great passion for open space; and to end my career with Mayor Sarno is bittersweet but he understands the importance of investing into our community through our neighborhood parks, fields and facilities.  So, I know the Parks are in good hands with the Mayor at the helm. Thank you, Mayor.  After 37 years, I am ready to call it a career.  I am looking forward to spending more time with my family, especially my grandchildren, although I won’t be too far away if needed for a special project or two.”

As Patrick embarks on this new chapter, we extend our heartfelt thanks for making his journey not just a job but a fulfilling and enjoyable service to the residents of our great city. Please join us in congratulating Patrick Sullivan on his well-deserved retirement and wishing him all the best in his future endeavors.

Sullivan’s retirement date is April 2, 2024

Mayor Sarno also announced that he has tapped his Chief of Staff Tom Ashe to become the new Executive Director of Parks, Buildings and Recreational Management following Sullivan’s retirement.  Ashe was appointed as Chief of Staff in 2018 and previously served as a City Councilor and School Committee member.  He also previously worked at the YMCA of Greater Springfield as Vice President of Government Relations.

“Yet another bitter-sweet announcement.  Tom has served with the utmost distinction and has been a trusted confidant for me and my administration.  He has an been integral part and extension of me, involved with all our departments, especially Parks and Facilities with logistical and ‘nuts and bolts’ planning – no one better at it.  He’ll be a fine fit to fill Pat Sullivan’s big shoes and continue to build upon our parks and facilities maintenance and enhancement initiatives.  His institutional knowledge, serving as my Chief of Staff, as well as a City Councilor and School Committee member, will allow him to ‘hit the ground running’.  Tom has always been a neighborhood guy, a real ‘people person’, and he will do a tremendous job building upon the great foundation Patrick Sullivan has built.  I am looking forward to working with him in this new capacity as we continue to work together to move our Springfield forward for the betterment of all our residents and business community,” said Mayor Sarno.

Mayor Sarno also spoke very highly of Tom’s ability as a liaison with key local, state and federal officials and agencies, helping and supporting city departments, programs and initiatives, and securing much-needed funding.  “As Pat Sullivan has always said, it is important to supplement city money and investment by continuing to seek out and attain state and federal funding and grant opportunities,” added Mayor Sarno.  “Tom has been my key conduit with state and federal officials and agencies, working to help secure funding opportunities for our city, especially our parks and facilities, amongst other matters – it’s all about relationships.”

Tom Ashe stated, “I want to thank Mayor Sarno for his continued belief and confidence in my abilities.  It has been an honor to serve as his Chief of Staff for the past six years.  I want to also thank and congratulate Patrick Sullivan on his well-deserved retirement.  Patrick was a dedicated public servant for the City of Springfield and his passion for maintaining our beautiful neighborhood parks and municipal buildings was always a priority for him.  I am looking forward to this next chapter in my career and building upon all of the great initiatives, programs and projects the Sarno Administration continues to advance for the betterment of all our residents.”

“With my Chief of Staff transitioning to another department, I will be making another announcement in the near future in regards to appointments for my Mayor’s Office staff,” said Mayor Sarno.  “Stay tuned.”    

Page last updated:  Tuesday, March 1, 2022 01:32 pm