Anthony Jackson can relate to the many Californians who are furious with the State Parks Department.
According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the retired Marine and his wife were among the outdoor enthusiasts who dug into their pockets this year to save a beloved local park after Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration announced there was no money to keep dozens of them open. Then it turned out that parks officials had concealed tens of millions of dollars — enough to keep almost everything operating — from state bookkeepers.
Now it’s Jackson’s job to make sure nothing like that ever happens again. In November, Brown appointed the state government neophyte to run the Parks Department, which has 280 facilities across 1.4 million acres and a $500-million budget this year.
“There’s a lot of pressure on me,” Jackson, 63, said in an interview. “Sometimes my wife chuckles, ‘You’ve got yourself in it.’ ”
Faced with an accounting scandal born of longtime insiders playing by their own rules, the governor put in charge an outsider with a record of order, discipline and creative thinking about the environment. In his last military post, Jackson, who had risen to major general, commanded more than 73,000 people on seven bases. He pleased conservationists by promoting green energy policies on those bases and helping to fight a toll road near Camp Pendleton that would have cut through San Onofre State Beach.
“It’s kind of shocking how much I like him,” said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California and a self-described “liberal peacenik.” In a November letter to Sierra Club members, she said Jackson “may be exactly the right man at the right time for state parks.”
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