The board of the Piedmont Park Conservancy has selected Doug Widener, the executive director of Chicago’s Lincoln Park Conservancy, as its next president and CEO.
Widener, who is expected to begin his post at the Piedmont Park Conservancy sometime in late October, will succeed Mark Banta, who has been in that position since 2014 after a short tenure as the park’s chief operating officer.
Banta last year announced his intention to retire sometime in 2023 once his successor was on board.
The Piedmont Park Conservancy conducted a national search that spanned more than 20 states with assistance from the Atlanta-based BoardWalk Consulting firm before selecting Widener.
A spokesperson for the Conservancy confirmed Widener’s selection and issued the following statement:
“The Piedmont Park Conservancy selected Widener to drive the Conservancy’s mission forward as it enters an exciting chapter of growth, impact and collaboration with the City of Atlanta.”
Widener has served as executive director of the Lincoln Park Conservancy, a 34-year-old nonprofit that’s similar to the Piedmont Park Conservancy, since April 2018. Before then, Widener served with the U.S. Green Building Council in various roles from 2006 to 2018.
He has a Master of Science in Environmental Studies from Ohio University. He also received his Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the same institution, according to his LinkedIn page.
The Lincoln Park Conservancy has a mission to protect, restore and enhance the Chicago park’s art, architecture and natural environment. As executive director, Widener has overseen all aspects of the Conservancy’s operations, including staff leadership, program direction, strategic planning, fundraising, fiscal management, marketing and community outreach.
Lincoln Park is Chicago’s largest greenspace, spanning 1,214 acres. It also is Chicago’s most heavily used park, with more than 20 million visitors a year, according to its website. By comparison, Piedmont Park is under 200 acres, and it attracts about 6 million visitors a year.
The Piedmont Park Conservancy, at its annual Landmark Lunch earlier this year, celebrated Banta’s leadership with the organization.
Piedmont Park is considered to be Atlanta’s signature historic park. It dates back to 1909, when the City of Atlanta transformed the site into the Cotton States Exposition and enlisted the Olmsted brothers, landscape architects who were the sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, to develop a master plan for the park. Although the 1912 master plan was never fully implemented, the Olmsted brothers greatly influenced the development of what is now Piedmont Park in the heart of Atlanta.
The Piedmont Park Conservancy was formed in 1989. It is a privately-funding nonprofit, which has a memorandum of understanding with the City of Atlanta to help restore and preserve the park.