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8.4: Journey to Success

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    Francisca Castillo

    My entire career path has been with the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. I gained the job knowledge and experience to promote within the organization. 

    Current Role

    • Director of Gender Equity Affairs, L.A. City Recreation and Parks

    Previous Roles

    • Acting Recreation Director, L.A. City Recreation and Parks, 2012 - 2017
    • Recreation Coordinator, L.A. City Recreation and Parks, 2006 - 2012


    • Masters in Business Administration, University of Phoenix
    • Bachelors of Arts, Recreation and Leisure Studies, California State University Dominguez Hills


    Lance O’Keefe

    My career path has been instrumental to any success I have experienced in my current role.  The various positions I have held have allowed me to learn the expectations of the community, the organization and how to lead others in different capacities. Throughout my time in each role, I viewed them as mentoring opportunities to learn about; the team I was a part of and how they communicate with one another and throughout the organization; the challenges within a particular division or department to meet the needs of the community; and how success is measured when goals have been accomplished. Using my knowledge and experiences from working within various divisions of a local government agency, including the Recreation, Human Resources, Finance, Risk Management and Technology Services, I am able to successfully lead a team of professionals to create and implement programs and services that positively impact the lives of the residents within the Santa Clarita Valley. Each day my goal is to be a continual learner, so that I may be a resource to others in helping them achieve their goals.

    Current Role

    • Recreation and Community Services Manager, City of Santa Clarita

    Previous Roles

    • Management Analyst, Recreation and Community Services, City of Santa Clarita, 2018 - 2019
    • Interim Human Resources Analyst, City of Santa Clarita, - July 2017 - February 2018
    • Management Analyst, Administrative Services Department, City of Santa Clarita,  2016 - 2017 & mid 2018
    • Recreation Supervisor, Aquatics, City of Santa Clarita, 2011 - 2016


    • Masters of Science, Tourism, Hospitality & Recreation Management, California State University Northridge
    • Bachelors of Science, Recreation, California State University Northridge


    Tracy Hild

    As the first woman permanent Senior Lake Lifeguard, first woman Supervising Lake Lifeguard, and first woman Lake Aquatics Manager in LA County Parks and Recreation Dept. history, I was first blessed to develop educational programs for children. More recently, I have supervised operations at Castaic Lake from swim beach to boat patrol, and organized and managed special events, set budgets, set schedules, and conducted written evaluations and proposals.  I’ve also worked with numerous outside agencies and lead Incident Command Operations in disasters such as wildfires or drownings.  This is all in the context of serving the needs of our community.

    Current Role

    • Lake Aquatics Manager for Castaic Lake, Los Angeles County Department of Parks & Recreation

    Previous Roles

    • Supervising Lake Lifeguard for Castaic Lake, Los Angeles County Department of Parks & Recreation, 2015 – 2018
    • Senior Lake Lifeguard for Bonelli, Santa Fe Dam and Castaic Lake, Los Angeles County Department of Parks & Recreation, 1990 –2015
    • Lake Lifeguard, Los Angeles County Department of Parks & Recreation, 1987 – 1990


    • Bachelors of Arts, Liberal Studies, California State University Northridge


    Mike Theune

    Starting a career as a national park ranger, after finishing my undergraduate degree with a background in earth sciences and a goal of working with the public, I was able to connect a wide range of topics with audiences from all over the world. The experience of communicating with numerous stakeholders such as park visitors, local community members, businesses, and schools, allowed me to create intellectual and emotional connections to our public lands, not just our national parks. As a ranger, facing complex situations and emergencies, and seeing how they impacted people, I realized that working in a nature-based tourism industry, I needed to continue my education. With the support of the National Park Service, I was able to go to graduate school full-time, to better understand how the public engages and interacts with our public lands, while working as a full-time ranger.

    Finding and enjoying the challenge of developing messages and communicating with the press, I worked my way up to become a public affairs officer for a unit of the USDA Forest Service. Through this stint I learned the value of social and economic impacts first-hand, as our public lands are massive economic drivers within their communities. Overseeing a large national project, really showed how diverse and complicated our nation is.

    These experiences ultimately led to me currently being the only field-based fire communication & education specialist in the National Park Service. While my day-to-day work is a combination of being strategic and tactical, the complexities of being the spokesperson for a visible program has led to challenges that have allowed me to grow, as community interest in the parks is extremely high. However, it has given me opportunities to realize that the human side of incidents and disasters is most important.

    This is why I am now part of a type-1 interagency incident management team in addition to my day-to-day job. Responding to the largest incidents and disasters that may ever impact a community, carries the responsibility of ensuring that accurate and timely information is disseminated to the public and other stakeholders. Having been evacuated or directly impacted by an incident or disaster in every national park site I've worked in, I understand what people are going through when things go bad. But it's the interactions and conversations I'm humbled to have, with those facing the worst times of their life, which have given me the chance to be the face and voice of calm when emergencies happen.

    Current Role

    Lead Public Information Officer,  California Interagency Incident Management Type-1 Team 2

    Previous Roles

    • Fire Communication & Education Specialist (Fire PIO), Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, U.S. National Park Service, 2015 - Present
    • Public Affairs Officer, USDA Forest Service, 2013 - 2015
    • National Park Ranger, U.S. National Park Service, 2007 – 2014
    • Part-time Lecture, California State University, Northridge, 2011 – 2013


    • Masters of Science, Tourism, Hospitality & Recreation Management, California State University Northridge
    • Bachelors of Science, Geology & Geophysics, University of Hawai'i at Manoa


    Greg Avakian

    My initial introduction to the field of recreation and community services began in high school as a lifeguard and swim instructor. These early positions were the gateway to community recreational services and allowed me to be exposed to community event programming, youth and teen services, and adult sports.  Risk management and staff training became a passion of mine early in my career and allowed me to develop strong supervisory and mentoring skills.  While working within campus recreation, I was provided opportunities for leadership development for both professional staff and student mentoring, as well as facility management and project development. My return to community recreation was relatively a smooth transition due to the field of recreation being extremely diverse and providing professionals such a well-rounded experience in program and staff development, fiscal responsibility, and facility management.

    Current Role

    • Director, Parks and Recreation Department, City of San Luis Obispo

    Previous Roles

    • Director – Campus Recreation, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA, 2013 –2019
    • Assistant Director – Recreational Programs, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA, 2000- 2013
    • Recreation Coordinator – Aquatics and Sports, City of San Ramon, CA, 1995 –1999


    • Masters of Arts, Higher Education and Leadership, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA
    • Bachelors of Science, Recreation Management, Cal State University, Long Beach, CA

    8.4: Journey to Success is shared under a CC BY-NC license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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