Timucuan Parks Foundation, a leading land conservation organization in Jacksonville, has appointed Mayda Velez, who has been with the foundation for more than a decade, as its new interim executive director. Velez, the foundation’s operations and communications director, replaces current executive director Mark Middlebrook, who will remain with the foundation as its Senior Advisor/Preservation Project. The changes were approved by the Foundation board in November and became effective Dec.1.
Velez has worked with the foundation in some capacity since 2013. She started as a volunteer for the organization before being hired to help with operations and administration. She began leading the nonprofit’s communications efforts in 2018 and took on the additional role of director of operations in 2022. Velez has a background in graphic design and has been instrumental in advancing and supporting the foundation’s many community and conservation programs.
“I look forward to serving as the interim executive director and helping to continue to grow the organization and its supporters,” said Velez. “From the first time I volunteered for a project with TPF, I was hooked. I am completely dedicated to the mission of the organization to preserve, promote and enhance our city’s natural areas. I love introducing our community to these green spaces—they are absolute jewels for everyone to enjoy.”
TPF Chairman Bob Hays said, “The board and I have the utmost confidence in Velez as she takes over this interim role. She has been a major asset to this organization, and I am sure she will continue to be so. She is a great choice to lead the organization as the board conducts our search for a new executive director.”
Middlebrook has dedicated his decades-long career to protecting Northeast Florida’s natural landscapes. He worked for Mayor John Delaney’s Preservation Project Jacksonville when it was established in 1999 to acquire and preserve natural and environmentally sensitive lands. The Preservation Project and its affiliated nonprofit worked with multiple conservation nonprofits, state and federal agencies to acquire more than 53,000 acres of environmentally sensitive lands within Jacksonville’s city limits. Throughout the years, the organization evolved to become the Timucuan Parks Foundation. Middlebrook has served as executive director since 2016. In his new role, Middlebrook will advise the board on issues that may adversely affect the Preservation properties.
“It has been an honor to work with the City, the National Park Service, and the Florida Parks and our nonprofit partners to build one of the largest urban park and preserve systems in the nation,” Middlebrook said. “The foundation gave me the opportunity to continue to work on the Preservation Project for which I will be forever indebted. I can only hope that I can help the foundation achieve its goal to provide vast open space opportunities for Jacksonville residents.”
Middlebrook plans to retire in 2024 to spend more time with his family, especially his five grandchildren.