Elizabeth W. Smith
President & CEO
Reporting to the Board of Trustees, the President & CEO directs the overall strategic planning, park operations, capital programming, public programming, development and marketing, and communication strategies for the organization. Ms. Smith works with the Board of Trustees on all governance issues, board development, financial planning, and budgeting strategy to ensure a strong, stable organization. She has executive responsibility for fostering relationships with donors at all levels, Park users, senior Parks Department officials, and other public officials. She directly manages the COO & Central Park Administrator, CFO, and area VPs, as well as provides leadership to all levels of the organization.
Strategy Development and Execution
Ms. Smith partners with the Board on all operational and strategic issues as they arise. She works with senior managers to implement the strategic plan by encouraging and receiving buy-in of the strategic plan by the entire organization. She will continue working with the Strategic Planning Committee to review the implementation of the strategic plan. She will engage the committee around issues, trends, and changes that would affect the operational model and delivery of the strategic plan.
Development Strategy and Implementation
Ms. Smith oversees the development and execution of a comprehensive fundraising strategy that ensures the availability of adequate financial resources to fund the Conservancy’s annual and long-term program of work. She drives the organization’s donor messaging to facilitate the movement of individuals, corporations, and foundations across the giving pipeline. She ensures the successful cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship of individuals with the potential to make significant capital and long-term operating gifts to the Conservancy.
Condition of the Park
Ms. Smith partners with the Board, COO & Central Park Administrator, CFO, and other senior team members in creating an appropriate capital and operating program that meets the needs of the restoration, management, and operation of the Park, while taking advantage of the Conservancy’s strong fundraising capacity. She partners with all senior operations managers to increase the use of environmentally friendly and sustainable management, and operational and horticultural practices that promote environmental stewardship and best practices, while continuing the high level of maintenance standards that the Conservancy is renowned for. She supports and increases the use of technology to create greater efficiencies while increasing standards.
Strengthening the Organization
Ms. Smith provides leadership, clear vision, and mission priorities to the organization. She identifies, retains, and develops talented staff, Board members, and future leaders of the Conservancy. She creates and implements sound management practices and performance measures that facilitate effective decision-making, a cohesive and effective structure, as well as a healthy organization. She develops a strong senior management team that is capable of creating and implementing organizational objectives. She encourages cross-departmental collaboration that supports the Conservancy’s mission and strategic plan. She provides leadership to all levels of the organization, seeking out and encouraging individuals who exhibit qualities that position them for future organizational leadership.
Relationship with the City of New York
Ms. Smith develops and manages relationships with the Parks Department and City government (e.g. regulatory agencies/commissions, City Council, etc.) to ensure the public-private partnership between the Conservancy and the City is effective and adaptive to changes in the political landscape. She cultivates relationships with relevant City officials to ensure that the partnership between the City and the Conservancy remains strong, and that the Conservancy is viewed as a leader with respect to public-private partnerships.
Central Park Conservancy Institute for Urban Parks
Ms. Smith provides executive leadership for the Central Park Conservancy Institute for Urban Parks, the educational arm of the Central Park Conservancy. She develops and oversees the implementation of programs that transfer knowledge of the Conservancy's urban park management and stewardship practices – both locally and globally. She supports the NYC Parks' Equity Initiatives program by ensuring the Institute continues to provide comprehensive training and on-site support for the Community Parks Initiative (CPI). She provides leadership and oversight of the Urban Park Executive Education Program (for existing and newly formed parks groups and leadership), and the Professional Certificate Program (for mid-level or aspiring parks professionals) – both programs to be delivered through the Conservancy’s partnership with CUNY.
Ms. Smith was appointed President & CEO of the Central Park Conservancy effective March 1, 2018. Prior to her appointment, Ms. Smith served on the Board of the Conservancy since 2014 and the Advisory Board of the Institute for Urban Parks, the Conservancy’s educational arm.
Ms. Smith previously served as NYC Parks Assistant Commissioner during the Bloomberg Administration, with responsibility for the Agency’s large and highly diversified concession portfolio as well as its annual roster of all major special events on City parkland. In addition, she managed relationships with an expanding portfolio of conservancies and other public- private partnerships, serving as principal liaison with the Agency. During her tenure, she also oversaw the marketing and corporate sponsorship departments as well as numerous special projects focused on strategic planning, staffing models, and branding. Since leaving NYC Parks at the end of the Administration in 2013, Ms. Smith remained an involved and avid supporter of urban parks and open space, and until March 1, 2018 served as a Board Member of Friends of the High Line and the Open Space Institute, and as Vice Chair of New Yorkers for Parks, in addition to her role on the Central Park Conservancy’s Board of Trustees.
Prior to joining NYC Parks, Ms. Smith had a 25-year career in finance. She started her professional career in commercial banking at JP Morgan before transitioning to venture capital and private equity management at Prospect Group Inc. and at the family offices of Harry F. Oppenheimer and the Rockefeller Financial Group. She later ran client services and finance at Sotheby’s before joining the Bloomberg Administration in 2002.
In addition to her involvement in parks and open space, Ms. Smith is the Chair of the Board of the Library of America, a nonprofit publisher of significant American writing. Ms. Smith has two daughters and lives in New York City with her husband, Rick Cotton.