Marin Independent Journal

Corte Madera parks head gets Mill Valley job

- By Giuseppe Ricapito

Mill Valley has hired a local parks official to replace its outgoing arts and recreation director.

Ashley Howe, Corte Madera's parks and recreation director, is set to start her new role in Mill Valley on April 24. The city's current director, Sean McGrew, will retire June 2.

“What I know of Mill Valley is that the facilities are beautiful, programs and services are diverse, and the people are amazing,” Howe said. “My goal is that together the arts and recreation department will continue to identify and meet the needs of our community and introduce programs, services, and events that exceed expectatio­ns.”

Howe will earn an annual salary of $183,012. Her last day with Corte Madera is April 5.

“I'm eager to meet the community stakeholde­rs and understand what their interest and motivation­s and history of support for the department are,” Howe said. “Coming in with a fresh set of eyes is a nice opportunit­y to ask a new set of questions.”

Howe said she began working alongside McGrew during the pandemic, when municipal directors across the county developed plans on how to deliver services to the public.

McGrew recalled working with Howe during the COVID-19 emergency, a period which he described as “the most challengin­g time” in his career in the field of recreation.

“What stood out to me was her intelligen­ce, creativity, leadership and collaborat­ive spirit,” he said. “I think she will be a wonderful addition to Mill Valley's team.”

McGrew was hired as director in December of 2019, he said. He was first hired as a Mill Valley employee in 2015.

He said he was proud of his team's response before and during the pandemic. One of the department's notable achievemen­ts, he said, was the acquisitio­n of the artist Aristides Demetrios' Halley's Comet sculpture. The sculpture was the first art sculpture installati­on acquired through the city's public art program in 2021.

McGrew also noted his work with the chamber of commerce to develop the annual Mill Valley Music Festival.

“I believe my legacy is the great people that I work with and have had the privilege to mentor throughout my eight years in Mill Valley,” he said.

Howe lives in Novato and grew up in San Rafael. She has two children, she said.

She attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, earning an undergradu­ate degree in recreation administra­tion. She holds a master's degree from San Francisco State University in recreation and leisure studies.

She has worked in the field of arts and recreation for about 20 years. Her experience includes management

and supervisio­n for recreation and special events for youth, teens and adults in aquatics, art exhibition­s, outdoor music and public films.

She has worked with the Marinwood Community Services District and other

organizati­ons in San Rafael, Tiburon, Benicia and Corte Madera.

She has overseen the maintenanc­e of parks and facilities such as the historic Clock Tower in Benicia. She also worked on the redevelopm­ent of the Albert Park playground in San Rafael and initiated a parks and recreation master planning process in Corte Madera.

Parks and Recreation Commission chair Vanessa Justice said the commission felt it was “critical” to hire a community-minded and energetic leader.

“Ashley's excellent communicat­ion and collaborat­ion skills make her a great fit to seamlessly continue work on the many projects underway and to oversee exciting initiative­s planned for the future,” she said.

Mayor Jim Wickham added, “Our recreation department is a key player in achieving our goals of a vibrant, healthy community and high quality of life in Mill Valley,” he said. “We are very pleased that Ashley will join us, bringing her experience and enthusiasm to lead our team.”

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