First published in the Jan. 29, 2022, print issue of the Burbank Leader.
The Verdugo Recreation Center was renamed this week to the Mary Alvord Recreation Center after Burbank’s first female city manager.
The Burbank City Council unanimously approved the name change request during its Tuesday meeting, with its senior members praising Alvord for her nearly 40 years of service to the city, which included also being the first woman to hold the position of parks and recreations director.
Verdugo Park, where the recreation center is located, will retain its name.
Alvord, a lifelong Burbank resident whose grandchildren are attending the same local schools she did, said in an interview that she and her brothers grew up going to the park frequently. Her family lived on Verdugo Avenue a short distance away from the park, she explained, and even now as a Magnolia Park resident she visits the pool there every day.
“Much of our childhood was there,” Alvord said. “I learned to swim there [and] took classes there.”
Alvord also said her connection to Verdugo Park gave her an early encounter with the city system that would later employ her. When the city built a two-story community center over the park’s pool, the facility was open only five days a week, she explained. Despite being in her pre-teenage years, the young Alvord — with the help of her family — went door-to-door collecting signatures for a petition to expand the center’s open hours.
The city listened, Alvord said, and the recreation center is still open seven days a week.
“That’s how much the park meant … to my family and everybody else who lived in that area,” she added.
Alvord started her career with the city of Burbank in 1970 as a junior recreation leader in the Parks and Recreation Department, according to a staff report submitted to the City Council. She became the department’s director in 1991, overseeing the construction of Burbank’s tennis court, the roller hockey rink at Ralph Foy Park, the Maple Street playground and the Stough Canyon Nature Center, among other projects.
She became assistant city manager in 2000 and served as city manager from 2003 to 2009 before retiring. Alvord remains on the board of directors for the Family Services Agency — a local counseling nonprofit — and is a facilitator for the Leadership Burbank program.
“She’s definitely very passionate about parks and recreation,” Councilman Bob Frutos said Tuesday. “I could speak for hours about her [and] what she does for our city, but I’m definitely supportive of this [renaming].”
Former Parks and Recreation Board member Mickey DePalo requested the board consider renaming the Verdugo Recreation Center after Alvord in January 2021, according to the staff report. The panel unanimously approved a recommendation to the City Council.
Alvord said Marisa Garcia, parks and recreations director, called her to notify her about the request prior to the board’s vote. Alvord was a bit hesitant to accept the honor at first.
“It’s not a recognition that I [went] looking for, nor did I expect it,” she said. “But what an honor of a lifetime.”