Brennan to leave Greenway conservancy

The head of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy is stepping down after nearly eight years in charge of the downtown Boston park system, officials annnounced Monday.

Nancy Brennan will leave the conservancy in mid-January to take a job as chief of philanthropy at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. Officials with the conservancy said they will soon begin a search for her replacement.

Brennan has led the conservancy since its inception in 2005, helping to create a 1.3-mile string of parks along the route of the old Central Artery that is now populated with public art, food trucks, seasonal festivals and community events. She has also endured controversy about her $185,000-a-year salary as well as questions about how to fund and manage the park system.

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Brennan said it was her decision to leave. “This is a good time for me to go,” she said.

“My specialty is in the start-up nonprofit world. I’ve been here almost eight years and I can look out the window and see how far the greenway has come in beauty, animation and fun things to do,” Brennan said. “It will be in very good hands.”

The conservancy is in the midst of a major transition from relying mostly on funds from the state government for the parks’s operations and maintenance. The organization is now trying to form a so-called business improvement district to raise private funds from property owners around the park network. Its annual budget is currently $4.4 million.

Georgia Murray, chairwoman of the conservancy’s board of directors, praised Brennan’s work: “Nancy Brennan has been an extraordinary executive director of the greenway in its formative years,” she said. “Under her leadership, the park has taken shape. Among its signature programs, the Greenway is one of the country’s only organically-maintained public parks and is host to the Green & Grow career development program for seventeen to twenty-year-olds who come from low-income and immigrant families in Boston.”

Officials said that Jesse Brackenbury, the conservancy’s chief operating officer, will continue to run the day-to-day operations until the board hires a new executive director.

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