Renée E. Bahl is an accomplished executive in the park, recreation and conservation industry. She began her career as a Fiscal Analyst for Arizona’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee. Here she examined proposed budgets and programs for the state’s environmental and natural resource agencies and made recommendations to the legislature. Soon after, she became Assistant Director of Arizona State Parks where she administered grant programs for statewide recreation, historic preservation and land conservation, as well as guided the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and recreational trails programs. She was appointed the Governor’s State Liaison Officer for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and became an active board member of the National Association of State Outdoor Recreation Liaison Officers (NASORLO).
She left Arizona to accept the position as San Diego County’s Park and Recreation Director and served in various posts on California’s Association of Regional Park and Open Space Administrators and the National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials. San Diego County and its park system were ravaged by wildfires in 2003 that destroyed one-third of the park system. Committed to turning this tragedy into an opportunity, Renée and her department led the park restoration by building smarter and designing what was needed and not merely replacing what was there, thereby establishing a more sustainable and better functioning system.
The Grand Canyon State called again and in June of 2009 she was selected to be the Executive Director of the Arizona State Parks Board. She was greeted by severe budget cuts that not only eliminated all state general funds, but also swept funds generated from user fees that are used to operate the system. Knowing that Arizona State Parks is a critical economic engine for the state, the Board’s overarching priority was to keep parks open. Under Renée’s leadership, the Board forged unprecedented agreements with local governments, non-profit organizations and the Hopi Nation to keep state parks open. Ultimately, all parks remained open for portions of the year.
Returning to California as Santa Barbara County’s Assistant County Executive Officer, she oversaw several land use and judicial departments. In addition to her primary role, she served as the Community Services Department’s interim director for more than a year and was able to modernize the camping reservation system and promote partnerships with appropriate private concessions to satisfy visitor desires and maximize revenues for park use.
Ms. Bahl is currently the Associate Vice Chancellor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She oversees the physical infrastructure, construction, maintenance, and safety of this ocean-front campus.
Renée holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Emory University and a Master of Pubic Administration in Environmental Policy and Natural Resource Management from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs. She has been a member of the Academy since 2010 and a Board member of the Academy Foundation since 2016 where she served as Vice President in 2017, and President in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Renée was awarded the Cornelius Pugsley Award in 2019. (updated 10-24-2019)