Conway's no longer just a pretty face in the Merced City administration.
Some question appointment of Merced's Parks and Recreation head…JOSHUA EMERSON SMITH
The city of Merced's Parks and Recreation Department continues to be at the center of controversy.
After the city aggressively slashed the department's funding in its recent budget, residents spoke out, forcing funding to be partially reinstated.
Now the city has appointed Mike Conway, assistant to the city manager, to take over as head of the Parks and Recreation Department while continuing to act in several other capacities.
"I wanted to make sure there's adequate oversight of the office," said City Manager John Bramble, who appointed Conway.
However, the move has some in the community questioning Conway's qualifications for the job.
"A person who was initially a newspaperman and then the spokesperson for the city of Merced and is now the assistant to the city manager, what qualifies him to be the director of parks and recreation?" said Napoleon Washington Jr., president of the Merced County NAACP. "They have capable people in that department with years of experience who have not even been considered. And that's troubling."
Conway said the position is largely administrative, and that he is more than qualified take on the responsibility.
"I believe I can handle the roles and duties," he said. "One of the things that the head of parks and rec does is work with budgets and admin reports, and I have done those things in my other duties."
When it comes to programming, Conway said he would have support from the staff, and added that he has experience as a user of city recreational facilities.
"One of the things I do have is experience with it as a consumer," he said. "I have kids who have used a variety of city recreation parks and programs, who have done zoo camp and go swimming."
Conway replaces Frank Quintero, who also had no formal background in parks and recreation programming.
Under direction from the City Council, Quintero will focus more sharply on his role promoting economic development.
"We've been doing these things in the past, but now we're going to be able to expand -- marketing ourselves and meeting with leasing agents," he said.
He said that marketing requires building relationships and making a case for why they need to be in Merced. "Now that redevelopment is gone, we have to put more resources into economic development," he said.
According to city officials, Quintero's salary will not change. Conway said he could only provide a pay range between $107,784 and $131,016 per year for Quintero.
Bramble said he may re-evaluate Conway's compensation. Conway said he makes $77,760.
"I'm going to have to evaluate Mike's position as to his salary because of the responsibility he's going to take on," Bramble said.