Derek Smith brings vast experience to role
Posted on 05/25/2023
Family playing in park. Photo by RDNE Stock project for Pexels.Derek O. SmithIndustry veteran Derek O. Smith was named the new director of Northville Parks and Recreation and begins on July 3. The Parks and Recreation Commission made the appointment Wednesday at the recommendation of Northville Township Manager Todd Mutchler and Northville City Manager George Lahanas.

“We’re thrilled to bring a passionate professional like Derek to our community,” Township Supervisor Mark J. Abbo said. “Residents in the township and the city share his passion for recreation and the outdoors. We feel lucky to have him lead us into what we expect to be the golden age of recreation for this region.”

Northville Parks and Recreation Department provides parks, facilities, programs and services through three divisions. It is a shared service between the Township of Northville and the city of Northville. The Recreation Division hosts programming in special events, youth recreation, camps, teen enrichment, adult recreation, athletics and more. The Senior Services Division provides programming in health and wellness, social, educational, enrichment and events. In addition, it operates a daily curb-to-curb transportation program for adults ages 60+ and people with disabilities.

The Parks and Facilities Division is responsible for a variety of neighborhood and community parks and pathways. The parks boast a variety of amenities, such as athletic fields, playgrounds, tennis courts, pavilions, dog parks, pathways/trails, boardwalks and nature areas. Unity Skatepark is being built this summer for an anticipated fall opening.

Smith joins Northville Parks and Recreation after holding a similar post for Independence Township for seven years. He led a team of 16 full-time employees and 130 seasonal or part-time ones, a $3.4 million operating budget and managed five parks. It also included a Senior Services division.

He also worked in Novi and led the Southeastern Livingston County Recreation Authority in Brighton. He has served on state and local professional organizations He was on the executive board of mParks for eight years in various positions, including president. He held leadership roles with the USA Softball of Metro Detroit Association for 20 years and as a regional player representative for the National USA Softball Board.

He has earned a CPRP, which shows his commitment to the profession and signifies that he underwent specialized education and experience to become certified as a parks and recreation professional, the national standard in the industry.

“I am excited to be given the opportunity to serve a community that is engaged in and supports a high standard of quality-of-life parks and recreation services,” Smith said.

Northville City Manager George Lahanas welcomes Smith to this major role, noting, “He’s a great fit for the community with its affinity for walking, sports, fitness and healthy lifestyles. He brings a tremendous amount of experience to the position. We are ready to gain from his leadership and ideas.”

At Independence Township, Director Smith was involved with the rigorous multi-year process of accreditation by the Commission for Accreditation of Parks and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) in 2016 and reaccreditation in 2022. Northville Parks and Recreation will begin the CAPRA process and will benefit from his experience.

He's most looking forward to shaping the future of the 350-acre Legacy Park, on the grounds of the former state psychiatric hospital.

“Legacy Park is an incredibly rare opportunity for the community and region to showcase itself as a premier park and trail system,” he said. “The project will offer excellent community stewardship through environmental sustainability, economic impact, and a variety of health and wellness benefits that will be inclusive for everyone.”

Smith will replace Interim Director Debra Bilbrey-Honsowetz, who was hired last July to run the department after a long career at Canton Township’s Leisure Services. “She has done an excellent job keeping important projects moving along and bridging the gap between directors,” Lahanas said.

Smith is an avid outdoorsman. He, along and his wife, son and daughter, enjoy hockey, soccer, baseball, golf, boating, fishing, camping, hiking, mountain biking, dirt biking, skiing and snowboarding. They live in Hartland.