Seen at the retirement announcement on March 5 are Mayor Domenic Sarno, out-going Executive Director of Parks, Buildings and Recreational Management Patrick Sullivan, his replacement Thomas Ashe and City Council President Michael Fenton.
Reminder Publishing photo by G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD — The police superintendent is retiring and a successor has been announced. The school superintendent is retiring and a national search for his replacement is underway and now Patrick Sullivan, executive director of Parks, Buildings and Recreational Management, is retiring as well.

At a press event on March 5, Mayor Domenic Sarno celebrated Sullivan’s 37-year career in government ends on April 2 and announced that Tom Ashe, the mayor’s chief of staff, would be filling Sullivan’s position.

A day later, Sarno announced that William Baker, his communications director, would become his chief of staff. That announcement was accompanied by two other promotions: Constituent Services Director Molly Shea to communications director, and Mayoral Aide Genesis Velez-Roque to constituent services director.

Sarno told Reminder Publishing Sullivan would be hired as a consultant for certain projects such as the Forest Park Horticultural and Learning Center that would link the former “monkey house” building – which has been cleaned and renovated – with the barn next to it to create a center for new greenhouse, botanical gardens and a comfort station.

Sarno’s announcement came in the monkey house to a capacity crowd of press, city officials, park personal, family and friends. The thanks were fast in coming from Sarno who described Sullivan as “an integral part of my administration.” He also called Sullivan a “visionary, but practical.”

The mayor added, “If you have the money, he has a plan not in his back pocket but in his front pocket.”
City Council President Michael Fenton said he had “come to know him as a problem-solver” and added that Sullivan was “instrumental in working collaborations across departments.”

Referring to not just the parks but to the city buildings of which he was in charge, Fenton added, “Pat’s fingerprints are all over this city.”

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal (D- Springfield) could not attend the event, but issued a statement about Sullivan that read, “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.”

When called to speak, Sullivan received a standing ovation from the audience. He said he would be “forever grateful” to his staff and added his position was not just a job, but “a shared experience with a second family.”

He said, “It was an honor and privilege to work for my hometown, the city of Springfield.”

In a press release from the mayor’s office, it was noted, “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.”

Among his many accomplishments are the reconstruction of two high hazard dams — Van Horn and Water Shops Pond dams. Sullivan also supervised the park vehicle entrance fee program for Forest Park, which helped revive the park. He also created a new entrance to King Phillips Stockade; reopened school gyms for the city’s afterschool and enrichment program; and installed the use of camera to catch illegal dumpers. Sullivan was prominent in the efforts to rebuild the city after the 2011 tornado.

Sarno appointed Ashe as chief of staff in 2018. He previously served as a city councilor and School Committee member, ran unsuccessfully for mayor and sheriff. He also previously worked at the YMCA of Greater Springfield as vice president of government relations.

Sarno’s statement about Ashe included, “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.”
Baker joined Mayor Sarno’s staff in 2012 as constituent services director, and in 2019 was promoted to communications director. He holds a master’s degree from American International College and bachelor’s degree from the University of Tampa.

Sarno said in a statement, “Bill has served as an integral part of my administration, a ‘Jack of all trades’, not only serving as a spokesperson for myself and the city of Springfield with the media, but also acting as my liaison with other city departments, state and federal officials and agencies, local public utility companies, and for our neighborhoods, residents, businesses and nonprofits.”

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