San Mateo Parks & Rec director to retire after 52-year career

San Mateo Parks & Rec director to retire after 52-year career

in Community

After 52 years of public service, Sheila Canzian, longtime director of San Mateo Parks and Recreation, will retire June 9, the city announced.

Canzian first joined the city in 1969 while she was in college and served as a volunteer in Central Park. She was hired in 1970 as a summer playground leader, then rose in the ranks holding positions as senior supervisor, section manager and community services manager, before being appointed as the Parks and Recreation Director in 1990, according to the city.

Along the way she’s earned a number of statewide and national recognitions, including last year when she was voted into the American Academy for Parks and Recreation Administration, a national organization of distinguished professionals.

Her proudest accomplishments include creating the city’s Shoreline Parks along the bayfront, co-founding the nonprofit Police Activities League, rebuilding the Poplar Creek Golf Course, establishing the Senior Center, updating the Central Park Master Plan, bringing a seasonal ice rink to Central Park, and creating a Learning Education Assistance Program to support school children during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the city.

“I have been blessed to work with a great team of staff and amazing managers over the years,” Canzian said. “I loved working in San Mateo, it is my community and it is heartwarming to walk through the parks and see so many children and families enjoying what our department provides. Parks bring the community together, whether it be at special events such as the Summer Concerts in the Park series and Winter Wonderland, or for family gatherings such as celebrating birthdays and reunions.”

City Manager Drew Corbett called Canzian an “icon in her profession.”

“Our organization has benefited tremendously thanks to her steadfast leadership, wealth of experience and remarkable number of years she spent serving the public,” he said.

Canzian is a second-generation city employee. Her father served as a firefighter during WWII. She’s served on various local boards, where she plans to stay active. Along with continuing her volunteer work, she plans to travel, garden, and enjoy her hometown parks.

“I was born and raised in San Mateo and spent summers at our local school playground. Growing up I always had so much fun visiting our parks and getting to work in them these last 50 years has been the best career I could have ever wished for,” Canzian said.

According to the city,  a new Parks and Recreation Director will be named shortly. The role oversees a department responsible for managing San Mateo’s 35 parks, six recreation/community centers, the Marina Lagoon, the 18-hole Poplar Creek Golf Course, nearly 23,600 city trees, and numerous programs and events.

Photo courtesy of the city