"If not the RDC, who?" - Some Management Options & Salary Comparisons

Mayor Wharton asked the question.

Now fresh out of Memphis Boot Camp and increasingly aware how important it is that we ask these kinds of questions and consider the possibilities, we've taken a quick look at how 3 Tennessee cities are managing their waterfronts and at how Memphis is managing our parks, greenways, and downtown.   

Comparing Management of 3 TN Waterfronts

In Nashville, the Metro Parks and Recreation Department is in charge of managing the new waterfront parks, greenways, amphitheater, and pedestrian bridge. The Department Director's salary is $129,662. The Assistant Director makes $102,500.

In Chattanooga, Rivercity Company, founded as a non-profit in 1986 to implement a 20-year, 22-mile blueprint for the Chattanooga riverfront and downtown, has completed much of its work on public amenities and is now shifting to focus on nearby downtown commercial redevelopment.  The original work was funded by $12M from local foundations and financial institutions. Rivercity's recent annual budget was $3.2M with $75,000 of that coming from the City. The director's salary with benefits is $241,919.

In Memphis, the RDC was set up in 2000 and, according to the Commercial Appeal, had spent about $75M on the riverfront by 2011. More than 98% of its funding has been public rather than from private sources. The pie-chart breaks the organization's expenditures into categories. 

Tax forms show a $1,456,911 RDC deficit in 2011 and a $623,754 shortfall in 2012.  The RDC President's salary in 2012 was $226,837 plus $15,781 from other related organizations. The compensation range of his top three assistants was $82,637 - $122,850.

Memphis - Other Management Options

Memphis Department of Parks & Neighborhoods now includes Park Services, Memphis Public Library system, Memphis Music Commission, Memphis and Shelby County Office of Reentry, Office of Community Affairs, and Memphis Animal Services. The staff oversees 166 Parks, 110 playgrounds, 25 summer day camps, 28 Community Centers and 4 Senior Centers, 17 swimming pools, 8 golf courses, 48 athletic fields with youth and adult teams, 130 basketball courts, tennis centre, May Soccer Complex, Skinner Development Center, Memphis Zoo, Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis Botanic Garden, and Pink Palace Family of Museums. The Director of Parks & Neighborhoods makes $118,879.28. The Deputy Director of Parks Operations makes $103,664.60.

Downtown Memphis Commission's goal is to aggressively promote commercial redevelopment downtown.  It is an improvement district funded through a special assessment of commercial property owners. The assessment generates approximately $2.8M annually, which is used by DMC to provide technical assistance, planning and promotional support, design assistance, public improvements, business recruitment, and management assistance. DMC has recently received the additional responsibilities of managing Beale Street and overseeing the Main to Main project. The DMC president's salary is $155,000. The 3 vice-president's salaries range between $80,000 and $110,000.

Conservancies have been set up to manage two Memphis parks: Shelby Farms and Overton. In both cases, the land remains publicly owned, and the Conservancy operates on a 10-year management contract. The 3rd local example, Wolf River Conservancy, is a non-profit land trust dedicated to the protection and enhancement of the Wolf River corridor and watershed for education and low impact recreation.
  • Shelby Farms Park Conservancy sets the vision, fundraises to meet operational needs, and manages Shelby Farms Park and Shelby Farms Greenline recreational trail. The Director's salary is $119,438. The Associate Director's salary is $83,854. The Park Manager's salary is $99,750.
  • Overton Park Conservancy  oversees the Midtown Memphis park excluding management of the zoo, golf course, Memphis College of Art, Brooks Museum of Art, Levitt Shell, and the fire department installations. In 2012 the Conservancy received $377,863 or 15% of its operating costs from the City. The Director's salary was $52,837.
  • Wolf River Conservancy as a land trust holds in excess of 1,110 acres extending from the River's headwaters toward the its confluence with the Mississippi River in Memphis.  The Executive Director salary in 2012 was $75,000.
The management structures above are just a few of many options. For more information on waterfront management and oversight systems other cities have established, click HERE,

Memphis Boot Camp was thoughtful, challenging, exciting. If you weren't able to attend, videos are now online. Click HERE