By Omar Thabet
The Hamtramck Parks Conservancy Board announced last month that local resident Thomas Habitz will be the new Executive Director, effective September 2023.
Mr. Habitz will be the first permanent Executive Director for Hamtramck’s Conservancy Board.
Mr. Habitz enters the new role with a rich history in planning and economic development in the Detroit area. He has had an extensive career with Henry Ford Health developing & executing strategy in that space. Mr. Habitz has also been a frequent volunteer with Hamtramck’s city boards and commissions, and with sports and recreation in the area as well.
What is the Hamtramck Parks Conservancy (HPC)?
The Hamtramck Park Conservancy (HPC) is a collaboration of the city of Hamtramck, Hamtramck Public Schools, Hamtramck Recreation Department, and community partners seeking to improve green spaces and recreation activities for city and area residents. The HPC supports the Hamtramck Recreation District, which includes Veterans Park, Keyworth Stadium, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Playfair Field, and the many amenities and activities within them.
Konrad Maziarz, who is HPC’s Board Chair, is excited to have Tom on the team.
When asked what was the process like in finding the new executive director, Konrad said, “We hired a search firm, Quattro, to conduct a national/regional search for a new Executive Director. Thomas Habitz was one of the highest rated candidates that was recommended by the search firm. After it was narrowed down to the finalists, and Tom was interviewed by the entire board, we were confident that Tom would be a good fit to lead the Conservancy going forward.”
Konrad would also love to hear more from the local Hamtramck community when it comes to the park’s conservancy.
“We want to ensure these improvements benefit and utilize the community. As stated earlier we hope to have some meetings with the community to get their input, and to show their opinions are valued. It would be a truly great thing to have the community feel involved, utilize, and ensure the parks’ success.”
Let’s learn more about Executive Director Thomas Habitz
Q: What does your new job entail as the Executive Director for Hamtramck Parks Conservancy?
A: My role is to put the pieces together so that our parks can realize their full potential. We have an ambitious master plan (available for download at hamtramckparks.com) which is a roadmap for some very exciting physical improvements, but also for new programming that will provide our residents with opportunities for exercise, recreation, gathering, experiencing nature, and trying new activities. Our organization is designed to be a steward of our assets, but also to play a leadership role in making new initiatives happen.
Q: You’ve always been volunteering in the city of Hamtramck. What makes this city special to you?
A: Hamtramck is my favorite place in the world! I’ve been drawn to the city because it is full of real people, with independent ambitions. There is an incredible combination of timelessness and dynamism Hamtramck, where it feels on one hand like it never changes, yet the people and politics are in constant motion. It’s well-located, walkable, affordable, rich in history, rich in culture, and has an attitude that is completely unmatched.
Q: How will your past experiences help you in your new role as the executive director of Hamtramck Parks and Conservancy?
A: I’ve had the great pleasure to work with a good number of local folks through volunteering, and coaching and officiating sports, in my spare time. I feel like that has given me a “running start” to understand community needs and develop important relationships that will lead to some great collaboration.
Q: What are some of the top goals you want to accomplish in your new role?
A: We are very eager to get some projects going that will enhance the experience of coming to the parks, and some that will attract new visitors. From our master plan, we have opportunities to expand our facilities for soccer and other sports; improve our playgrounds; establish new trails and pathways; support the rebirth of tennis; incorporate new gardens and landscaping; and introduce new gathering spaces. Of equal importance is addressing some of the key elements like adequate restroom facilities, effective security, and trash collection, etc., that contribute to an exceptional experience.
Q: What are some of the future plans that the HPC has for the Southend of the city?
A: One of the important things to remember about the potential of our parks is that they can be a catalyst in so many ways. With good design and collaboration, growth and development will occur in adjacent spaces. Property values tend to hold steadier near quality parks. Community pride, health, and spirit are all fostered by proximity to active open spaces. More specifically, we are fortunate to abut the Joe Louis Greenway, which presents a great chance to attract visitors and extend looped ways from it. We should expect a lot of nonmotorized traffic to be coming into our area from this greenway project, and it will allow south end residents to move more easily and safely around town.
Q: What would you like to see from the community in terms of supporting you in your future efforts?
A: We are constantly looking for new ideas, and information on how our parks can be best utilized. If you have seen a cool piece of equipment or program in a park in a different city, please suggest it! We’ll be truly successful when our community feels like we “own” our parks spaces together, and are working toward the same goals of good health, fun recreation, and peaceful green spaces. I’m expecting that conversations with people about how they connect with parks will be one of the most fun parts of my job. We’ll also have plenty of volunteer opportunities, so please be on the lookout for them.
Q: Do you any final message for the residents of the city of Hamtramck?
A: Let’s dream big! With all of the assets that Hamtramck and its people possess, we can create – right here – everything that we desire.
Mr. Habitz closed out the interview by thanking all the various individuals and organizations who have done the work to get Hamtramck to the point of having a Parks Conservancy in place, with staff and resources to utilize.
From all of us at The Yemeni American News we want to congratulate you on your new role Thomas Habitz. We are looking forward to the great work you’ll be bringing to the Hamtramck community!