Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy names COO, former city employee as new leader

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy’s current Chief Operating Officer Catherine Qureshi will take the reins as the nonprofit’s next leader, the agency announced Thursday.

The organization’s previous president and CEO Jayne Miller stepped down in October, citing family reasons, and had been on leave since May 2020.

Ms. Qureshi, who has been with the organization since 2014, held multiple positions with the city of Pittsburgh before joining the nonprofit as its finance director.

“Catherine’s steady hand at the helm during the COVID pandemic has been an extraordinary asset for the [conservancy],” said Michael Lyons, chair of the nonprofit’s board of directors. “As we strengthen our close working relationship with the city of Pittsburgh following implementation of the voter-approved parks tax, Catherine’s professionalism and experience are vitally important. She is the right leader for the PPC today.”

The organization stepped into the local political spotlight when it petitioned for a property tax hike, with support from Mayor Bill Peduto, to fund the city’s roughly 160 smaller community parks. The ballot referendum narrowly passed in November 2019 and was followed by squabbling in City Council Chambers over how the funds should be split

In December, the body finally approved enabling legislation to collect the tax — which amounts to $50 on every $100,000 of assessed property value — but the first-time collection of the revenue, in part, caused an ongoing weeks-to-months long backlog in the city’s ability to process payments.

The conservancy credits Ms. Qureshi with managing the financial strategies for several capital projects, including the completion of the Frick Environmental Center in Frick Park, restoration of Schenley Park’s Westinghouse Pond, ongoing Allegheny Commons restoration on the North Side, and improvements in Downtown’s Mellon Square as well as Mellon Park in Point Breeze, August Wilson Park in the Hill District, and McKinley Park in Beltzhoover.

Meg Cheever, the organization’s founding president, described Ms. Qureshi as an “ideal choice” because of her “deep experience in local government combined with her years as a valued senior executive at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.” 

Ashley Murray: amurray@post-gazette.com

First Published May 28, 2021, 2:33pm