Carolyn Wright named Interim Director of Solid Waste Management Division and Kenneth Allen named Interim Director of Houston Parks and Recreation Department
Mayor Sylvester Turner recently announced the appointment of Carolyn Wright as the Interim Director of the Solid Waste Management Division (SWMD) pending the retirement of Director Harry J. Hayes and Kenneth Allen as the interim director of the Houston Parks and Recreation Department following the resignation of Parks Director Steve Wright.
Wright is deputy director of the city’s north side collection activities, which comprises over 240,000 single and multi-family homes.
“I have charged Carolyn with keeping the SWMD’s operations on track and improving customer service while we conduct a national search for a permanent replacement. I know the department will be in capable hands under Carolyn’s leadership,” said Mayor Turner.
Wright is a Houston native, a proud graduate of Phillis Wheatley High School, and continued her formal education studies with Texas Southern University and the University of Houston-Downtown. She began her City of Houston career over 37 years ago, starting with the Houston Public Library. She later joined the Solid Waste Management Department in 1986 and now has more than 34 years of professional solid waste management experience. Wright’s work experience in the solid waste management department includes the Human Resources Division Manager, Deputy Assistant Director at the Thomas M. Buchanan Northwest Service Center, and Deputy Director of North Operations.
“I am very humbled and excited about the opportunity to serve as interim director. My commitment to the City of Houston and the Solid Waste Management Department remains solid as it has been for the past 37 years. I’m here to continue to serve the citizens of Houston to the best of my ability, and I assure you that our team of talented and dedicated employees are just as committed,” said Wright.
Wright is active in the community and donates her time and skills toward the enrichment of neighborhood programs. She has played a vital role in every significant department challenge over the past years, including its response to Tropical Storm Allison, Hurricanes Rita, Katrina, Ike, and Harvey, the coronavirus pandemic, and city-wide anti-litter abatement projects.
Hayes is retiring after faithfully and diligently serving the City of Houston for more than three decades and leading the SWMD for 13 years. During his tenure, he managed the department’s record-breaking debris recovery efforts in the aftermath of several major storms.
“Harry has been a go-to person for me at City Hall and is a strong pillar with institutional knowledge. He is someone who loves this city. He has done an exceptional job, and we will miss him,” said Mayor Turner.
Allen is a Houston native with 36 years of “hands on” professional experience in the Parks and Recreation field. A graduate of Madison High School and Indiana University, along with studies at Clemson University, Allen has worked in the Houston Parks and Recreation Department for 28 years — with the last 11 serving as the Department’s Assistant Director/Recreation and Wellness. He oversaw a $20-million budget, managed adult sports programming, and HPARD’s ballfield permitting office. He also managed operations of City aquatic facilities, tennis centers, and golf courses. He has managed greenspace inventory, crew assignments, and projects, and maintained and managed parks in the City’s Central region.
“I am pleased to name Kenneth Allen as Interim Director of the Parks and Recreation Department while we conducti a national search. He has a wide range of skills and experience that I hope will continue to make the Houston Parks Department one of the best in the nation. He’s also a native Houstonian who’s very familiar with the value of neighborhood parks and what they mean to our communities. I look forward to working with him and look forward to more good things from the Parks Department to make the City proud,” said Mayor Turner.
Allen managed the Parks Department’s partnership with the Police Activities League (PAL) and has advocated for funding on Capitol Hill for the Parks Department’s acclaimed Soccer for Success program. And for several years, he hosted the U.S. Youth Games in Houston, as well as the Houston Corporate Games.
“I am proud to accept the interim appointment and continue the good work of the Houston Parks and Recreation Department. I know what our parks mean to Houstonians and I will work hard every day to make sure our neighbors have parks and greenspaces they can point to with pride and enjoy with their families. I’m ready to get to work,” said Allen.
Allen has proven experience in building community programs and facilities through partnerships, corporate sponsorships, and grants. He also has strong community ties – especially related to our neighborhood parks. He is a member of the National Recreation and Parks Association. He also was a Big 10 Athlete of the Year Award winner in football at Indiana University and an Honorable Mention All-American at Indiana University in football.