Member Biography

Sara Hensley

Sara Hensley is currently the Director of the Austin, Texas Parks and Recreation Department. Before Austin, Sara was the Director for the City of Phoenix, Arizona Parks and Recreation Department. Along with solid leadership skills accumulated over almost two decades working in the parks and recreation field, she has a proven track record of getting results and a demonstrated commitment to community involvement, youth, and neighborhood services.

Prior to coming to Phoenix, Sara was the Director of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services (PRNS), one of the largest and most diverse departments in the City of San José. In her role as Director, Ms. Hensley was responsible for overseeing a department with more than 850 employees and a budget of $49 million. She had oversight of an array of parks, facilities and programs including:  more than 100 neighborhood parks, 19 community centers, 11 senior centers, 10 youth centers, the City’s very successful Anti-Graffiti Program and its new Animal Services Program. 

Before San José, Sara served as the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Director in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Sara also served as the Director of Recreation for the Champaign Park District in Champaign, Illinois and worked for the Parks and Recreation Department in Austin, Texas. She holds a master’s degree in education/recreation administration and a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Sara is known for getting results. In Virginia Beach, she coordinated a number of significant projects to benefit the community including:  garnering community support to set aside 15,000 acres of open space, implementing enhancements to more than 300 neighborhood parks and facilities, and doing a major revision of the city’s Comprehensive Plan to better implement smart growth efforts and enhance quality of life.

Sara also spearheaded development of national training facilities for the U.S. Field Hockey Association and led the efforts for Virginia Beach to be selected as a Magnet Center for Sports Strategy (with a focus on basic skills development, parent and coach training programs, and strategic recreational facilities planning) by the National Recreation and Park Association. She also has worked closely with school districts and non-profit organizations to achieve joint operating facilities and shared programs.

Sara has been the recipient of many honors and has participated on various committees throughout her career. She continues to be an active member of the National Recreation and Park Association. [updated 11/08]