New Montgomery Parks Director Brings Excitement and Experience to the Job

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U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), center, tours Long Branch Trail in Silver Spring with Miti Figueredo in August 2022. Photo credit: Montgomery Parks

The daughter of Cuban immigrants is the new director of Montgomery Parks.
Miti Figueredo, 54, assumed the position in January 2024, replacing Mike Reily, who retired as director.

Figueredo’s parents came to the U.S. in 1960, following the Cuban Revolution. “My mother and her sisters came as unaccompanied minors and were later reunited with their parents.

They settled in New Orleans and my father’s family settled in Houston,” says Figueredo.
She grew up in Florida and was raised in Miami when she was very young. She left the state for law school and moved to Chicago where she met her husband.

“We moved to Silver Spring in 2001 and raised both of our kids in Montgomery County,” says Figueredo. Their children are now young adults, a 28-year-old daughter and a 24-year-old son, who is serving as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Figueredo moved to the District of Columbia in 2021.

Figueredo is the first Latina to hold the position of director of Montgomery Parks. She describes how it impacts the way she does her job. “I am not going to work every day thinking about my identity as a Latina and as a woman. I go to work every day and think about how I can implement a park system that’s equitable and that serves the needs of a growing and diverse county.”

Figueredo says that her family background informs her perspective when she considers how to serve Montgomery County residents who use the parks.

“I hope it gives me more empathy and makes me feel connected to all the residents … in Montgomery County who are immigrants themselves, or who are the children of immigrants, or who in some way have not always felt themselves served or reflected in what the county has to offer as much as they should have been.”

And Figueredo says she and county officials are committed to serving all residents equitably.

Figueredo, who previously served as deputy director of Montgomery Parks, describes her priorities this way. “My priorities are implementing our 2022 Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan that was approved by the Planning Board. And that plan sets forth the three main priorities of Parks as encouraging physical activity, fostering social connections and protecting the environment.”

The Montgomery Parks Director says she is committed to equity, in terms of recruiting a diverse workforce.

“Probably about 25 percent of our employees in Montgomery Parks are eligible for retirement in the next few years and obviously, we’re going to lose a lot of longevity and experience. But we then also have an opportunity to make sure that we’re hiring employees who reflect our residents,” says Figueredo.

Figueredo says that Montgomery Parks is also applying what she called “an equity lens” when it comes to the future projects in terms of making decisions about how they are allocating their resources going forward, what kinds of projects they are pursuing and where those projects are located.

The new Montgomery Parks Director points out that the county has a very large park system.

“Fully, a third of the county is Montgomery parkland. 37,000 acres. We have 419 parks and we have over 1,000 employees, if you include our park police. We run the gamut from employees who are obviously out there every day maintaining our parks and fixing them. But we also employ biologists and conservationists and landscape architects and engineers and lawyers,” says Figueredo.

And she emphasizes that the parks system is maintained at a very high level and is constantly evolving to meet the needs of county residents.

Figueredo says Montgomery Parks provided an important service for residents during the pandemic.

“Obviously, there were so many places people couldn’t go, but in Montgomery Parks, we never closed our park system. Our park system remained open for people throughout the entire pandemic. Our workforce remained on the job. And I think people understood, in a way that they hadn’t before, how much they depend on those public spaces,” says Figueredo.

She has worked in both public and private sector jobs, including for then-Congressman Chris Van Hollen, former County Executive Ike Leggett, and County Council member Nancy Navarro, as well as for the real estate developer Chevy Chase Land Company. She talks about what draws her to public service.

“The work that I ended up being really interested in after I graduated from law school was … around the question of what makes cities and places economically and environmentally sustainable, what makes a place healthy and happy. And the best place to me to pursue that kind of interest is on the public sector side,” explains Figueredo.

Figueredo is an outdoor enthusiast who has an active lifestyle. “I like to go running. I’m also an equestrian. I ride horses. I ride my bike to a lot of places, particularly on the weekends.

I’ll just ride my bike to the grocery store, to run errands and I like to read,” says Figueredo.

She enjoys being in the parks when she has the opportunity. And yes, she does have a favorite park.

“I love our trails. That’s a big draw for me. Probably my favorite park is Dewey Local Park, which is kind of an ideal urban park, except it’s not really in an urban area. When I think about what urban parks should be like, I think along the lines of what Dewey Local Park has to offer.” Dewey Park is located on Dewey Road in Silver Spring.

The Montgomery Parks Director says she is excited about two upcoming projects. One of those, the South Silver Spring Urban Park, is currently under construction and tentatively scheduled to open later this year. Figueredo says the park was recommended in the plan for downtown Silver Spring and adjacent communities.

“I think from the time of acquisition of the parcel, which was an old National Tire and Battery building in downtown Silver Spring on East-West Highway, to the development of the park will be about five years, which for implementation of a capital project like a park, that’s record time, so I’m very excited to see that,” says Figueredo.

She is also looking forward to implementing master plan recommendations for the 50-year-old Wheaton Regional Park. According to Figueredo, her department is requesting money in the capital budget to move forward with building what they are calling an action sports park that will have several different outdoor recreational amenities including a climbing wall, a skate park and seating areas for people to watch.

“We think it’s going to be a countywide draw and a real amenity for people in that part of the county as well and provide more of an outlet for young people” says the Montgomery Parks Director.

Figueredo indicates that one of the suggestions made in the 2022 Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan, which sets the priorities of the park system, was the need for more amenities for teenagers.

Figueredo says that Montgomery Parks is considered a national leader among park systems. “Well, I think it’s not just the size and scope. We’re a very large park system but I think it’s the level of sophistication we bring to planning and designing and building our parks, as well as programming them,” explains Figueredo.

She says that Montgomery Parks is using new tools to help plan new parks and determine where they should be located.

“We are getting sophisticated about our use of data to better allocate our resources and direct our efforts to the projects that are most needed and where they’re most needed,” says Figueredo.

The Montgomery Parks Director says they are also implementing more equitable outreach efforts to go beyond just hosting public meetings. They are turning to random surveys, talking in person to people in the parks, going door to door and creating pilot projects to reach county residents.

Figueredo says even though there is strong public support for parks in Montgomery County, the parks may be impacted by fiscal challenges going forward.

“I think one of the main challenges we have is continuing to maintain our park system, build new amenities to address emerging needs and all of these things in a kind of a constrained fiscal environment.”

And Figueredo says Montgomery Parks is trying to relieve some of the fiscal pressure by seeking other sources of funding like federal and state grants to support the parks.

Figueredo believes that parks play an important role in the lives of Montgomery County residents. And this is reflected in her vision for the department.

“If you think about a number of the serious problems that we’re facing as a society, and they include things like chronic diseases resulting from diet or lack of exercise, epidemic levels of loneliness, even a little bit of a decline in our shared commitment to democratic principles, I think that the Parks Department has a critical role to play in addressing all of those issues,” says Figueredo.

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