San Mateo native Sheila Canzian has worked for her hometown since 1970, a 52-year career at City Hall that has spanned many civic accomplishments while in her longtime role as the city’s parks and recreation director.

Canzian, who has had an influential, award-winning career with the city of San Mateo and is one of the city’s longest-serving employees, is getting ready to retire.

She has been instrumental in managing San Mateo’s well-known recreational programs, facilities and amenities, with some of her proudest achievements being the creation of the city’s shoreline parks along the bayfront, co-founding the nonprofit Police Activities League, rebuilding the Poplar Creek Golf Course and establishing the Senior Center.

Additionally, Canzian led the updating of the city’s Central Park Master Plan and brought a seasonal ice rink to Central Park. She also created a Learning Education Assistance Program to support schoolchildren during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“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.”

Sheila Canzian

Her department manages the city’s 35 parks, six recreation and community centers, the Marina Lagoon, the Poplar Creek Golf Course and nearly 23,000 city trees.

“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.”

“Sheila has made immeasurable contributions to the San Mateo community and is an icon in her profession,” said City Manager Drew Corbett. “Our parks and recreation amenities are beloved by so many people and significantly enhance the quality of life here in San Mateo. Our organization has benefited tremendously thanks to her steadfast leadership, wealth of experience and remarkable number of years she spent serving the public.”

During her tenure as San Mateo’s parks and recreation director, Sheila Canzian was instrumental in the rebuilding of the Poplar Creek Golf Course, seen here in a 2021 image. (Photo by Matt Young/Google)

Canzian’s family is no stranger to its working association with San Mateo. She is a second-generation city employee, her father once served as a firefighter for San Mateo during World War II.

Canzian began her work with the city while in college, serving as a Central Park volunteer in 1969 before being hired the following year as a summer playground leader. Through the years, she rose through the ranks, holding positions as senior supervisor, section manager and community services manager, before being appointed as parks and recreation director in 1990.

“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.

Canzian is set to retire June 9. Her replacement will be named shortly, city officials said.