HOUSTON- Mayor Sylvester Turner has appointed recreation and fitness executive Stephen Wright as the new director of the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, pending City Council approval. Wright brings decades of experience in providing a broad portfolio of community-based health and fitness programs to a wide range of neighborhoods, most recently at the YMCA of Greater Houston.
“All Houstonians deserve great parks with excellent programming,” Mayor Turner said. “Stephen has spent years in the nonprofit sector working to bring health and fitness programs to communities across the region. We have spoken about my vision to increase access to parks and recreational facilities and programs for all Houston neighborhoods, and I am confident of Stephen’s ability to deliver on that vision.”
Wright has served in leadership positions in the YMCA for the past seven years. He was vice president of Business Development and Healthy Living, where he provided strategic leadership on new projects, programs and healthy living strategies for all 31 YMCA branches in the region. Prior to that, he served as vice president of Operations, where he led efforts on membership and volunteers for the organization. He has also served in leadership roles in city government in Breckenridge, Colorado, and in the private sector for health and fitness companies in California, South Carolina and Texas. A native Houstonian, Wright earned a Masters of Arts in Kinesiology and Bachelors of Business Administration from Sam Houston State University.
The mayor plans to bring Wright’s appointment before City Council on July 5. The position has been filled on an interim basis by Lisa Johnson since the March retirement of Joe Turner, who led the department for 13 years.
Mayor Turner also selected strategic communications leader Alan Bernstein to lead the Communications team. Bernstein is a highly recognized change management executive who is uniquely qualified to synthesize information from trends, culture, survey data, news reporting and other sources into advantage-producing insights. He has experience in media relations, crisis communications, social media tools, policy and executive messaging. He will fill the vacancy left by Janice Evans and has been filled by Interim Director Darian Ward since mid-April.
“I am familiar with Alan’s work in media relations, strategic planning and team building. He will be a welcomed addition to lead our communications team,” said Mayor Turner. “We are counting on his ability to develop a comprehensive and effective communications strategy highlighting my administration’s efforts to move Houston forward.”
Bernstein comes to the city from the Harris County Precinct 1 Constable’s Office. He was special assistant to Constable Alan Rosen, attracting worldwide coverage of selected cases handled by the agency. Previously as the director of Public Affairs with the Harris County Sheriff's Office, Bernstein was in charge of media and government relations for the agency.
Bernstein’s background also includes 29 years of experience as a reporter, columnist and editor with the Houston Chronicle, largely covering local and national political campaigns and elections.
He was honored by the 2009 Texas House of Representatives for “Integrity, thoroughness, objectivity and attention to detail, characterized by strict adherence to the facts and a sharp wit.” Bernstein earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism at Northwestern University.