UPDATE: Sue Black Out as Milwaukee County Parks Director

After 10-year tenure of dealing with budget cuts and still winning awards, Black is "no longer with Milwaukee County," County Executive Chris Abele said Thursday.

Updated at 5 p.m. Thursday to include comments from County Executive Chris Abele.

Milwaukee County Parks Director Sue Black was fired by County Executive Chris Able, who declined to say why Black was dismissed after a decade on the job.

At an afternoon press conference, Abele declined to give any specific reason for terminating Black, saying only that his responsibility was to make decisions that were in the best interests of county taxpayers.

Asked repeatedly what had changed in Black's relationship with the administration, Abele replied that he could not comment on personnel matters and would not indulge in "gossip."

"What I owe you as an elected official is the best use of your tax dollars," Abele said. "What I owe you is responsible decision-making even when decisions are tough. I don't owe you gossip."

Pressed for some explanation, Abele for the most part repeated that statement again and again, providing no details on the decision.

Abele would only say further that he himself would have to be judged by the results of his actions, presumably by the performance of Black's successor and the parks system going forward.

"Nobody gets an appointment for life," he said. "The parks are going to be fine. The golf courses are going to be open tomorrow."

In a press release issued earlier Thursday, Abele simply announced that a national search for a new parks director was under way and said that Black was no longer with the county.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel spoke to Black, who told a reporter she had been summarily let go by Abele. She said Abele would not give her a reason other than that the county was going to go "in a new direction."

An attempt to reach Black on her county-issued cell phone resulted in a message that the number had been temporarily disconnected. Black told the Journal Sentinel that she had been locked out of her office at the parks headquarters building during the meeting at which she was dismissed.

Black was appointed director by Scott Walker shortly after he was elected county executive in 2001. She replaced Sue Baldwin, who had become caught up in the uproar over county pension payouts.

Black went on to be an effective leader of the parks, doing her best to streamline operations in the face of yearly budget cuts and even winning the 2009 National Gold Medal for Excellence for her beleaguered parks system.

Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic released a statement Thursday saying, in part, “While I am sorry to see Black go, I recognize that such a personnel decision is solidly in the purview of County Executive Chris Abele.

“I am disappointed in the timing of this situation, as the Milwaukee County Board prepares for delivery of the Milwaukee County Executive 2013 Recommended Budget," she added. "The absence of a parks leader will certainly make it more difficult to respond to constituents who have voiced their support for Parks.

“I commend Black for her achievements in developing private-public partnerships and corporate sponsorships in the face of diminished public support," Dimitrijevic added.

Bren August 16, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Apparently Abele gave her two raises in 2011. Interesting.
vocal local 1 August 16, 2012 at 10:52 PM
tosa townie, I think your onto something here: "weeds and dandelions on every grassy area, {weeds and dandelions are preferred by me to chemicals} park shelters all in disrepair(visit Doctors Park sometime), and any inner city park completely ignored....at best she has not let it get worse, nothing has improved." If Grant Park in So. Milw. didn't have the friends of the park the grape vines would have choked out and killed several of the multi species trees. The Pavillion is in horrible shape. Walker did work out a deal with deceased Mayor Bolendar and Alderman, Mike Toman of Oak Creek to sell Oak Creek, Bender Park which contains a boat launch that is expensive to maintain but also contributes significant revenues, and did list the sale of the park to the city as a revenue to balance the county budget one year. When the sale was objected to by Black and residents he had to borrow to finance the county. I suspect we need to closely watch Abel and probably do another recall if he attempts to sell Milw. Co. Park Lands. Sue would have objected so is this why she is out of the door? In the case of Bender, the city of Oak Creek which now regards itself as a business entity with all the money it receives from We Energies can under lawcon trade Bender Park Lands for other perhaps wetlands and build expensive high end Condos on the shores of Lake Michigan. Tax Payers beware I never even liked the looks of that Abel guy..
Ray Ray Johnson August 16, 2012 at 11:22 PM
We can't have it both ways, smaller taxes and smaller budget and top shelf services. What built the parks? Wasn't it the CCC? To maintain them takes an expensive Herculean effort. Look at all the space and all the needs in those spaces: Grass, buildings, roads, concessions, pools, playgrounds, retaining walls, bridges, utilities and water services, golf courses, and more. There is so much complaining about the disrepair, and often it's by the same folks who want smaller budgets. Why can't we get a civilian park volunteer corps together to fill the gap? They are OUR parks. Remember, as Granny said, when you are pointing a finger, 3 fingers are pointing back at you. (Sorry, I thought it was funny) My point is that yes, the parks need some work, but rather than stomp and cry about it, while we wait for the benevolent overloard of socialism to squeeze the money out of us, let's take a breath and find another way to maintain them. Volunteer corps would help curb couch-potato obesity, bring people out of our self-imposed neighborhood isolation where we don't even know our neighbors, and bring a sense of "Mine" back to public lands. After all who is the public in 'public lands'...you or 'them'? Just brainstorming, and tired of the whining about who's not wokring for free.
one for all. August 16, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Abele is an ass. He looks like one. Acts like one. So why doesn't he just come out with the truth why he fired Ms Black. Whats the big frickin secret Abele???? Your an idiot. Never like you & never will. Your an ass.
AWD August 16, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Now Ms. Black has the time she can join Tammy Baldwin's LGBT Army.
vocal local 1 August 16, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Good Idea Ray Ray but the county unions wouldn't allow it. President Obama was talking about a civilian volunteer program in his first run for office and your right if I'm working there I'm going to take personal pride and ownership. As for you: NObama. if the new director has funding to spray and the ignorance to do so I hope it's your family that lies in the grass. The only commonality found in the North Shore Breast Cancer study was they all had lawn services.
jbw August 17, 2012 at 01:26 AM
I will join in the outrage against any plant life other than artificially-perfect foreign turf grass existing in our park lands. Nature has no place there. I feel ashamed as well for putting funding my retirement account ahead of installing new sod and hiring Chemical Lawn to dispose of a few drums on my front yard. I can only hope that our new parks director removes all trees and plants and replaces all open space with parking lots and golf courses. Might want to leave a little standing room in Hart Park for the public drunkenness events, though.
Bewildered August 17, 2012 at 03:44 AM
Told by insider, reason for firing is she had problem reporting to abele. As was said to me by one who knows " She acted lke Abele worked for her, not the other way around". Insider not at all surprised at firing. In fact, was surprised it took so long Take comments for what they're worth, but my source is very reliable. By the way, I have no dog in this hunt
John August 17, 2012 at 03:55 AM
Except Sue Black was at Tommy Thompson's rally on Tuesday night, so try again to get the facts to fit your twisted agenda.
Bren August 17, 2012 at 04:47 AM
There is a friends group and also corporate partnerships that have been developed over the years. Special equipment is needed for lawn care of this scale, etc. Some but not all work could be augmented by volunteers, I agree, but am also happy to have tax money used to keep them beautiful.
Michael J. Matusinec August 17, 2012 at 12:04 PM
Hey is it time to recall Chris Abele? It is easy to blast Sue Black, now is is out. Little or no budge or support. Yes, Chris give her two raises then fire her, great plaining. The more I see Abele's smug face, the more he should drive a garage truck. Sue Black did the best she could, yes there are issues, but we still have one of the best system in the Nation..
N. Peske August 17, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Not having been in the area long enough to guess at why Abele let Black go (and let's face it, personality clashes are common reasons for these types of siituations in any workplace), I don't care to speculate on the whys. I will say I continue to find it bizarre that people prefer carcinogenic chemicals to dandelions... What year is it? 1953? Also, one thing that struck me is the lack of food and beverage vendors in the parks to boost revenue. Is the food-related litter really so bad that it's not worth it to have these vendors active and generating money before Memorial Day and after Labor Day? Even hot dog cart contracts might be a good idea. When it can be 80 degrees in April and the crowds of people in the parks have to bring in their own cold water and soda, it's a missed opportunity.
Bob McBride August 17, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Nobody was even willing to run against him in the latest election, despite some other personnel issues he had during his first term and despite him carrying on in much in the same fashion of his predecessor (a fashion that's cited by many supporters of the recall against that guy as a reason for their support). Nothing to see here. Move on please. Pay no attention to this or the actions of Team Carpetbagger or any of the other local stuff. Go sink your teeth into Paul Ryan's behind.
Bren August 17, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Bob, the two CEs can't be compared. Abele has taken a more fiscally conservative approach to the job overall after inheriting a host of expensive mistakes and a $55 million deficit. I objected to Black's brainstorm to line Lincoln Memorial Drive with parking meters a few years back (and thankfully so did everyone else), but overall I think she did a decent job with an increasingly underfunded budget. Our park system is a legacy from the great days of civic planning and a gift to the future. So I'm disappointed by this decision and concerned about the loss of momentum caused by her departure. Personally, I also believe that locking someone out of their office/computer etc. is unprofessional, cruel, and unbelievably crass. Especially since we're talking County Parks here, not the Department of Defense.
Absolutelyfabulous August 17, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Good..Now it's $1,000.00 for anyone who can post on YouTube the video that clearly identifies me vandalizing public property in Bayside and you are the only one posting this information. Times are tough..Easy money and WFB isn't that big.. Oh, BTW..all those complaints to the BPD...What next? Keep spewing garbage because that's all you can do. Special needs/non-functioning/blight on society...As they say " 2 out of 3 ain't bad" Unfortunately for society, you weren't sterile. The world would be a much better place. .
Keith Schmitz August 17, 2012 at 02:57 PM
A little hard to imagine anyone more dedicated than Sue Black, especially her ability to spin gold out of straw.
Random Blog Commenter August 17, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Politics ain't beanbag and Abele just created a problem for himself. Let's see if he has a solution. Sue Black is a very talented individual who thinks outside the box when under challenging circumstances -- a very rare trait in governmental managers. She will land on her feet somewhere and probably with a higher salary than she had before.
Bill Mack August 17, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Sue Blacks record speaks for itself winning numerous awards, Abele gives Sue two raises and a new contract and then he cans her? I truly think Abele has some mental problems, he is unstable.
Bob McBride August 17, 2012 at 03:37 PM
It's a little hard to imagine you not going full metal screeching baboon over this if her boss wasn't a lefty.
Greg August 17, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Hot dogs???...Soda???...They will kill you. 99.9999999% of all the food, in this country, contains the same carcinogenic chemicals that they spray on dandelions... The carts are also chock full of toxins. The stainless steel alone has enough nickle in it to poison dozens of people. When we go to the park, we only eat pine bark and drink the dew off of sycamore leaves.
Jay Sykes August 17, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Beer is now flowing at the Biergarten in Estabrook Park. Is that the dew flowing from the leaves of the Sycamore, Greg?
Resident of O.C. Paul August 17, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Weeds and dandelions??? Seriously, that's what we're worried about the most? Parks are large areas...acres of open and wooded land, How are you going to prevent weeds and dandelions unless you spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on herbicides and their application, besides, who would want to go to a park that has just been treated? herbicides are hazardous. I'd be more concerned about shelters and building being kept up, and the parks being kept clean and free of trash strewn around than with weeds and dandelions...next thing on the "offensive" list will be squirrels and rabbits...sheesh...after that it will be putting bubbles over the parks, and having security fleece you for what you can and cannot bring in...Where does the insanity end?
Bewildered August 17, 2012 at 11:33 PM
Nice to hear from you too. Your class always shows through. Loved your "2 out of 3" coment re: my special needs child. Lets hope you never had kids esp. any that, in your world, aren't "normal".
vocal local 1 August 17, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Can't we simply abolish county government? Several years back there was discussion of a council of mayor's from every burb in the county taking over. At the time many were against it but perhaps it's time for reconsideration. Were seeing an annual increase in County Tax on our tax bills so lets just get rid of it. Less government is better isn't that the saying?
vocal local 1 August 18, 2012 at 12:02 AM
Question?? If my memory serves me correctly, the parks, zoo, library, museum were all established under Zeidler, a socialist. Someone made comment that the CCC built them does anyone know the facts?
Bren August 18, 2012 at 12:33 AM
Bob, I hope that's not the case. Honestly, if it were, wouldn't this have happened earlier? And Abele raised her salary in 2011. I wonder if we'll ever find out what the "personnel issue" is.
Sunrocket August 18, 2012 at 01:54 AM
vocal - the current zoo and museum were both built in the late 50's early 60's so I don't think those buildings were built by the CCC. Were they disbanded in the mid 40's? They definitely build some of the buildings in Estabrook and Whitnall park though. One in Whitnall is still there.
Kelly Kiel August 18, 2012 at 05:06 AM
The parks have slowly going downhill since 1982 when the county took them over. Before that there was a separate Parks Commission with it's own budget for 75 years. That is what we need to get back to so that our parks are not competing for dwindling funds with other important things like transit, mental health complex, etc.
Kelly Kiel August 18, 2012 at 05:11 AM
AWD, This thread is about our park system and Sue Black. Take your anti -lesbian agenda elsewhere please.
Michael August 23, 2012 at 07:16 PM
I think sue black did a great job. She made it more affordable for family to enjoy the parks, golfing, etc. It's a shame she was let go.


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