Five Rivers MetroParks names Karen Hesser next CEO

last updated 04/14/2023
Five Rivers MetroParks names Karen Hesser next CEO

Five Rivers MetroParks' Board of Park Commissioners has named Karen Hesser as the new chief executive officer of the agency. Hesser to begin her tenure Monday, May 1.

New MetroParks CEO has decades of experience

Five Rivers MetroParks’ Board of Park Commissioners (BOPC) has named Karen Hesser as the new chief executive officer of the agency. Hesser brings years of experience in the parks and recreation industry, including leadership roles at Arizona’s Glendale Parks, Recreation and Library Services, as well as with Pennsylvania’s Chester County Parks and Recreation. She currently serves MetroParks as the chief of operations.

At MetroParks since May 2012, Hesser began as the director of park services and legislative affairs before being promoted to chief of operations in 2016. She currently leads a team of more than 200 staff representing parks and conservation, outdoor connections, agency-wide sustainability, facilities and equipment management, and Adventure Central at Wesleyan MetroPark.

“I am honored and privileged to have the opportunity to lead this incredible agency,” Hesser said. “MetroParks is a team of committed professionals and incredible volunteers at every level who serve the Montgomery County community. I have two priorities: First, ensuring the community plan — the agency’s comprehensive master plan — continues to be the driving force. Second, that MetroParks’ three strategic plan priority focus areas — diversity, equity and inclusion; climate change mitigation; and sustained financial growth — remain front and center.”

Aside from her work at MetroParks, Hesser serves on the Boy Scouts of America Miami Valley Council’s executive committee, Miami Valley Regional Disaster Recovery for Jurisdictions committee, and the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery’s community outreach committee. She is a certified park and recreation professional and active in the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), serves on the NRPA Maintenance Management School faculty, and is a member of the prestigious American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration, a national organization that recognizes leadership and professional contributions to the field.

The decision was made by the three-person BOPC, which includes president Karen Davis, vice president Jessica Salem and commissioner-at-large Bear Monita.

“Karen’s extensive knowledge and experience has us confident that as CEO, her leadership will ensure the agency’s continued success and commitment to serving and exceeding the expectations of our community,” Davis said.

The search for a new SEO came after current CEO Rebecca Benná announced her plans to retire last fall. On April 28, Benná will retire from her more than 40 years of service in the parks and recreation industry, 12 of them at Five Rivers MetroParks.

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