SACRAMENTO (AP) — California’s state parks director abruptly announced his retirement May 21, just 19 months after he took control of a department that had been rocked by years of fiscal mismanagement.
Anthony Jackson, a retired Marine Corps major general, said in a statement that his tenure “has been a challenging, but ultimately fulfilling” one.
The major initiative launched under his tenure, a commission formed to make recommendations about the operation of the California Department of Parks and Recreation, still has another year of meetings remaining.
Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Jackson — who had served 36 years in the Marine Corps before retiring in 2012 — to the position in November 2012 after the previous director resigned following disclosures that the department kept $54 million hidden in two special funds for more than a decade, even as budget cuts threatened to close 70 of nearly 280 state parks.
On the day he was sworn in as parks director, he said he was “kind of stunned I’m in this position, but I’m also exhilarated.”
California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird said in a statement that Jackson “came to the department during its darkest hour, bringing stability and consistency. After almost 40 years of public service, he has more than earned the right to retire to private life.”
Parks department spokeswoman Vicky Waters said Jackson’s decision was prompted not by health concerns or other reasons but was “just a decision to retire after 40 years of public service.”
“He spent the last year and a half setting us on the right path,” Waters said.
She added that Jackson helped the department regain the public’s trust.
Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation, said she was not surprised by Jackson’s announcement because he had said when he took the post that he was likely to serve through the governor’s current term, which ends in January.
“We’re sorry to see the general go,” she said. “He’s certainly been at the helm through some choppy waters.”
Jackson’s retirement from the $150,000-a-year position will take effect June 30.