Meet the talented individuals that help Parks & Recreation grow!
Kathryn Ott Lovell was appointed commissioner of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (Parks & Rec) by Mayor Jim Kenney in January 2016. In this position, Ott Lovell oversees 700 full-time employees, more than 2,700 part-time and seasonal employees, over 10,200 acres of land, 500 buildings, 166 miles of trail, 250 playgrounds, and thousands of programs and events throughout Philadelphia’s parks and recreation system.
In 2017, Ott Lovell commissioned the first strategic plan for Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. The plan, Our Path to 2020, established a renewed vision for the department and set in motion a powerful trajectory toward an equitable and exceptional parks and recreation system that connects people to each other, to enriching experiences, and to the natural world. The plan emphasizes citizen-centric service; high quality, relevant, and accessible programs; and a commitment to well-maintained assets.
Since joining Parks & Rec, Ott Lovell has led innovative initiatives to activate municipal parks and engage residents and visitors city-wide. She played an integral role in the creation of Parks on Tap, a mobile pop-up beer garden; Swim Philly, a program designed to increase amenities and programming at neighborhood pools; The Oval+, an interactive mural installation, park, and event series; and the Philadelphia International Unity Cup, a soccer tournament that celebrates the rich cultural diversity of Philadelphia.
Ott Lovell is an active member of Reimagining the Civic Commons, a collaborative, national initiative that revitalizes and connects civic assets with the goals of civic engagement, socioeconomic mixing, environmental sustainability, and value creation. Over the next several years, she will also help implement the Rebuilding Community Infrastructure (Rebuild) initiative. This investment of public and private dollars will result in physical improvements to parks, recreation centers, and playgrounds; deepened engagement with communities; and economic opportunity for under-represented individuals and minority, women, and disabled-owned businesses.
Prior to her appointment as commissioner, Ott Lovell served as the executive director of the Fairmount Park Conservancy, a key partner of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. In that role, she elevated the organization’s profile and ushered in a dramatic shift in its strategic vision, building a host of new programs, executing high-profile projects, and securing funding from an array of local and national funders. Ott Lovell also served as Chief Advancement Officer for Mural Arts Philadelphia for six years, during a time of significant growth and programmatic shift for the organization.
Ott Lovell has presented widely on topics ranging from urban forestry, to climate change, to why parks are crucial to our future. Notable speaking and panel appearances include the South by Southwest Conference (SXSW), National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) Conference, the City Parks Alliance’s Greater & Greener Conference, and the One Water Summit. This year, she will serve as the 2018 NRPA Robert W. Crawford Lecturer.
Currently, Ott Lovell serves on the board of directors for the Please Touch Museum, Schuylkill River Development Corporation, Parkway Council, Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Sports Congress.
Patrick Morgan serves as the first deputy commissioner, strategy & engagement providing leadership for various units within the department, including Communications, Business Development & Concessions, Special Events, Leadership Development & Training, and Performance Management. Morgan helps provide strategic direction and capacity to ensure that PPR is a high-performing, efficient, and responsive leader and partner both internally and externally to help advance its goals as well as those of the Kenney Administration.
In close coordination with Parks and Rec executive team, he also oversees implementation of the department’s first strategic plan “Path to 2020”, including execution of action plan, development of working groups; analysis of metrics and performance measures. The strategic plan calls for departmental resident-centered reforms in support of high-quality relevant programs accessible to all and care of the built and natural environment.
Previously, Morgan was the Philadelphia-based program director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. He led Knight’s investment strategy in Philadelphia, working with local leaders to support a more informed, connected, and vibrant city. He managed a portfolio of community-focused grants totaling over $26 million. Through this work Knight invested in revitalizing and connecting public spaces to help foster more informed and engaged communities. Morgan worked with partners to support reconnecting residents to their waterfront by converting a vacant pier into Cherry Street Pier a “game-changing” mixed-use public space and placing residents at the center of the design and building of a new flagship public space on top of I-95. Morgan also initiated the creation of a citywide civic engagement strategy working with partners and community groups across public spaces. As part of this effort, Knight-funded trainings and activities helped jumpstart participation and energy around public spaces. As part of this work Morgan help to lead a partnership with the William Penn Foundation to pilot a new national initiative – Reimagining the Civic Commons – in Philadelphia, which has now been replicated in Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, and Akron. These cities are now exploring how public spaces can foster more equitable, inclusive, and engaged communities.
Prior to joining Knight, Morgan held leadership positions in Mayor Nutter’s administration, including chief of staff to the deputy mayor for environmental and community resources and assistant managing director. He helped to oversee the merger of the Fairmount Park Commission and the Department of Recreation as well as develop innovative public initiatives to increase the urban tree canopy, promote an equitable food system, create new public parks and play spaces, as well as advance workforce development, digital literacy, and community engagement.
Morgan earned a Master of Public Administration and a Master of Science in Education from the University of Pennsylvania and earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of Scranton. He also serves as an adjunct professor at Villanova University.
Susan (Sue) Buck was appointed Parks & Rec’s deputy commissioner of operations in 2016. A 1989 graduate of the Pennsylvania State University, she has been with Parks & Rec for 21 years.
As deputy commissioner of operations, Buck manages staff development and operations to preserve and protect public land and waterways. She also makes sure that the department’s buildings, fields, and parks are safe, clean, and ready to use. Specifically, she oversees:
- Facilities maintenance
- Grounds maintenance and landscape management
- Standards and inspections
- Park Rangers
- The Recycling Center
- Contract management
- Storm response
From 1995-2003, Buck was a recreation leader and facility supervisor at locations throughout the department. In 2003, she was promoted to coordinator of the department’s Teen Center. In 2007, Buck was promoted to district manager of then District 9, which included west and southwest Philadelphia. In March of 2011, Buck was promoted to North regional manager, a where she managed four districts in the Operations and Program divisions.
Aparna Palantino is the deputy commissioner for capital infrastructure and natural lands management. In her role, Palantino oversees:
- Capital projects
- Property management
- Urban forestry and ecosystem management
Palantino manages a variety of tasks and employees that work in capital projects, sustainability, maintenance and more. She also develops relationships with outside partners. She comes to Parks & Rec with over 20 years of project management and executive experience.
Prior to her appointment as deputy commissioner, Palantino was project director with the Department of Public Property, where she oversaw the successful implementation of over $65 million of annual work in sustainable capital improvements and historical projects for various city departments and agencies. Before coming to work with the City of Philadelphia, Palantino owned, operated, and managed all aspects of her own business.
Palantino studied architecture at the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology in Ahmedabad, India and as an exchange student at ETH in Zurich, Switzerland. She also has taken additional coursework in micro and macro economics. She lives in Fairmount with her husband, Joe, and their two children, Dylan and Anika. She and her family can often be found at one of Philadelphia’s many recreation facilities.
Sudha Suryadevara serves as the Chief of Staff. A proud honors graduate of Temple University, she serves as an advisor on the financial, operational, administrative, and strategic direction of the agency, in addition to overseeing the Commission on Parks and Recreation.
She comes to this position with experience in community center operations as well as program and aquatics management. Prior to joining Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, she was the Program Manager for the Citizens Planning Institute, in the Department of Planning and Development. Before joining the City of Philadelphia, she served as the Recreation Superintendent of Upper Merion Township. In this role, she oversaw recreational programming for the Township. Working with departmental leadership, she prepared the annual budget and assisted with the development and implementation of department-wide policies. She also helped oversee many facets of a $10 million dollar community center conversion.
She has previously served on the boards of Temple University’s School of Sport, Tourism, and Hospital Alumni Association and the Valley Forge Sports Commission.
An avid learner, she is a Certified Park and Recreation Professional, has a certificate in Public Entity Leadership through Penn State University, was a scholarship recipient and graduate of NRPA’s Supervisors School, and is a Citizen Planner through the Philadelphia Citizen’s Planning Institute. She’s a longtime Brewerytown resident and in her free time can be found in her neighborhood community garden or bicycling around the city.
Marissa Washington is deputy commissioner of administration for Philadelphia Parks & Rec and has held this title since 2008.
She oversees the following departmental units:
- Human resources
Collectively, these units manage the department’s $70 million budget and personnel, representing roughly 2,000 staff members, both permanent and seasonal.
Prior to her appointment at Parks & Rec, Washington worked at the Police Athletic League (PAL) where she managed grants, supported the accounting unit with budget preparation, recruited volunteers and hired part-time staff for after school programming. While at PAL, she assisted the Commanding Officer with various organizational responsibilities and national projects to build program capacity.
Washington was also a community organizer, mainly focused on the quality of public education provided to youth in the Strawberry Mansion section of Philadelphia. She worked closely with parents in North Philadelphia to help them navigate the school system and increase accountability at the local level.
Washington graduated from Towson State University with a degree in business administration with a concentration in finance. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority incorporated, a social organization founded in 1908. A lifelong resident of Philadelphia, Washington graduated from the Philadelphia High School for Girls and resides in Upper Roxborough with her husband, James.