Pecos Center Park

Acareer city employee whose first job was a recreation coordinator at Pecos Community center overseeing after-school programs now heads the Phoenix Parks & Recreation Department.

Cynthia Aguilar, who was stationed at Pecos between 1999-2004, last week was appointed Parks & Rec director and overseer of the nation’s largest municipal parks system.

Phoenix manages 41,000 acres, 185 parks and 200-plus miles of hiking trails with a budget of about $118 million and 1,500 full- and part-time employees.

Aguilar had been acting director for several months.

“This is an example of searching far and wide for the ideal candidate to fill one of the most demanding jobs in the city and finding her right here, already serving the residents of Phoenix at the highest level,” said City Manager Ed Zuercher.

 “Cynthia has proven herself, in a variety of capacities, to be able to handle some of the biggest challenges in the fifth largest city in the nation, while being fiscally responsible, and always responsive to the needs of the community, our customers.”

Aguilar worked in various city positions, including in the Planning and Development Department and City Manager’s Office, where she was instrumental in launching the Citywide Volunteer Program. 

She also took on special assignments with the Police Department and City Council before returning to Parks and Recreation as deputy director for the Downtown and Special Operations divisions.

Those divisions include more than 100 parks and recreation facilities, golf courses, city pools, sports complexes and major league and college baseball facilities. 

She was promoted to assistant director with Parks and Recreation before being named acting director in December 2020.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to guide the talented and creative staff that make up the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department,” Aguilar said. “This is where I began my career with the city, and I have had many rewarding experiences since. As a native Phoenician, I know how important the programs and services are that we provide to the community and the impact they can have on someone’s life. I look forward to leading a wonderful team and serving Phoenix residents.”

Aguilar holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master of public administration, both from Arizona State University. 

She is a graduate of Valley Leadership, Class 34, a member of the National Recreation and Parks Association and the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association, and was honored with Valle del Sol’s 40 Hispanic Leaders Under 40 Award. ′

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