Mayor Walsh Announces Search for New Commissioner of Parks

Published on March 28, 2023

Current Commissioner Julie LaFave takes new role with New York State Fair

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh announced the City of Syracuse is launching a nationwide search for a new Commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Youth Programs. The current commissioner, Julie LaFave, will leave her role effective May 1 to become operations director at the New York State Fair.

The City is seeking an individual with outstanding professional leadership ability to lead the department. The commissioner is responsible for the initiation, formulation, review, and direction of activities undertaken by the Department of Parks, Recreation and Youth Programs, as well as duties related to budgeting, operations, maintenance, and capital improvement. The complete job posting is at

“I’m very grateful to Julie LaFave for her service to our city. Julie’s professional experience and exuberance for parks took Syracuse to a whole new level during the past five years,” said Mayor Walsh. “She’s been a strong leader in the department and built a diverse team of passionate professionals dedicated to improving our parks, our programs, our youth and our relationships with the residents. Her legacy will have a positive impact long in to the future.”

LaFave joined the city in 2018 with the incoming Walsh administration. Mayor Walsh named her commissioner in July 2018. During her tenure, the department expanded the use of community engagement to guide parks facilities improvements. Major projects include new playgrounds at McKinley, Norwood, Lower Onondaga, Thornden, with construction pending at Spirit of Jubilee, Baker Playlot, and Higher Onondaga parks; a gymnasium renovation at Magnarelli Center at McChesney Park; saltwater conversions at Valley, Southwest, Burnet, Thornden, with three additional pools to come, as well as the complete renovation of Burnet Pool. 

LaFave was a staunch advocate for increasing access to parks and parks programs. She led the department during the COVID-19 pandemic ensuring that outdoor facilities remained open and parks programs for people of all ages continued. She oversaw the addition of adaptive equipment at parks facilities to ensure accessibility throughout the community. During her leadership, the department increased programming overall and made major improvements to online registration allowing 24/7 access to participants.

The Department of Parks, Recreation & Youth Programs manages over 1,000 acres of parks, playgrounds, and open spaces in Syracuse. Its mission is to support city residents and visitors now and in the future.