City of Amarillo officials are welcoming a pair of new department heads in the form of Parks and Recreation Director Michael Kashuba and Community Development chief Juliana Kitten.

A native Canadian, officials said Kashuba arrived in Amarillo via Addison, Texas, where he served as director of Parks, Recreation and Landscape Development while supervising the development, planning and renewal of parks, greenbelts, streetscapes and trails. Kashuba said he’s eager to assist residents in taking ownership of the parks and the varied recreational initiatives.

“We want to engage residents to determine what direction they want the parks to take,” said Kashuba, who earned a Master’s degree in landscape architecture at the University of Texas at Arlington and a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Dallas Baptist University. “I envision a lot of public engagement, because we want to share what we are doing and find ways to develop a more robust system. It’s an important part of the effort to lay out a road map for the future. The way to continue along the path to success is buy in from our citizens, staff and elected officials. That’s where the feedback comes into play.”

City Manager Jared Miller said Kashuba, who succeeds Rod Tweet, is a rising force within his industry.

“I was recently at the Texas City Managers Association Conference and I had more than one city manager come to me and say we stole him from right under them,” he said. “He has huge shoes to fill, following Rod Tweet, who left his own impact on Amarillo. But he’s definitely someone people are keeping their eye on and we’re so excited to have Michael with us.”

Meanwhile, officials said Kitten, who previously worked with the Amarillo Veterans Affairs Health Care System, graduated from the University of Chicago with a Master’s degree in social work and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from the State University of New York at Albany. Kitten has 18 years of experience working with the homeless, as well as those with mental health conditions. While serving with the Veterans Affairs Health Care System she received a Letter of Accomplishment from VA Homeless program National Director of Clinical Operations Keith Harris for leading her team from 66 percent voucher utilization to 100 percent in one year.

“We are fortunate to have someone with Juliana’s experience and skill set join us,” Miller said. “We’re looking forward to what she’s going to do with the Community Development program.”