Best Bureaucrat (2000)
City Parks Director Oliver Spellman
City Parks Director Oliver Spellman is without question Mayor Lee Brown's most popular appointee as a city department head. Spellman, formerly the Cleveland, Ohio, parks chief, faced a daunting task when he arrived in Houston in the spring of 1998. The department had been left in shambles by Lanier administration predecessor Bill Smith, and was the object of City Council criticism and a highly negative performance audit by City Controller Sylvia Garcia. Spellman initiated his own review and began reining in the bureaucratic anarchy that had characterized Smith's tenure. The new director showed his diplomatic skills in defusing the long-running fight between environmentalists and mountain bikers at Memorial Park. He sat down with both sides and hammered out a deal that protected park ecology while allowing use of some trails by the cyclists. He also rebuilt bridges to the dozens of nonprofit organizations who work in the parks system by consulting with board members and making them feel a part of the team. Says one: "I don't care if Lee Brown doesn't run for mayor again. Just don't take away my Oliver."