Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation: Who Is Anthony L. Jackson?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Anthony L. Jackson

Governor Jerry Brown, reaching outside the park service community, went career military instead and picked retired Major General Anthony L. Jackson, 63, as director of the troubled Department of Parks and Recreation on Tuesday.

Jackson replaces Ruth Coleman, who resigned in July after $54 million was found stashed in department accounts while 70 state parks faced closure because of budget cuts.

A resident of Fallbrook, near Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, Jackson was born in Fort Lewis, Washington. He picked up a bachelor's degree in history from San Jose Sate University in 1971 while attending on a football scholarship. Jackson, who at 6’1, 215 pounds was a small defensive lineman even by standards of the day, played three seasons and was team captain in 1970. He received a master's degree, also in history, from San Jose State in 1973.

After graduation, Jackson enlisted in the Marines and attended officer candidate school. He is a graduate of the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia, and the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 1998. From 1998 to 2000, Jackson was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II as assistant chief of staff, G-7, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

He served as the commanding officer, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division from 2000 to 2002. Jackson served concurrently as chief of staff, in 2002 and 2003, of Joint Task Force-555, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines, and 3rd Marine Division, Okinawa, Japan. He was assistant chief of staff, G-5, First Marine Expeditionary Force, deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II, from 2003-2005. 

Jackson moved to Central Command in 2005 as deputy commanding general of U.S. Marine Forces and stayed until deployed to Stuttgart, Germany, in 2007 as director of operations and logistics for the U.S. Africa Command. He left in 2009.

Jackson’s last assignment was supervising Marine Corps bases across California and the Southwest as Marine Corps commanding general, Installations West. He retired in 2011 after 36 years in the Marines.

After Jackson is sworn in Friday, he will oversee more than 280 parks encompassing about 1.4 million acres, 15,000 campsites and 3,000 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails. The department has a budget of $584 million. And he will inherit a lot of angry private donors who want the money back that they donated to the parks when it looked like a quarter of them would fall to the budget ax.

Acting Parks Director Janelle Beland offered the department’s abject apology and pledged that things would get better in the very near future. “We are working to correct past errors, keep parks open and operating for our visitors and communities, and move forward with an accounting and management structure that you can trust,” Beland wrote to donors after Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 1478 into law in September, giving parks a two-year reprieve on closures. “I urge you not to withdraw your donations and support.”

Although lacking a formal connection to park service, Jackson links his military career to his advocacy for conservation and alternative energy. In a U-T San Diego op-ed after his retirement, he cited the Mideast wars, fought by the U.S. “in large part to protect the supply of petroleum,” as his inspiration for seeking a “comprehensive energy infrastructure focused on renewable sources” as the “only path to energy and climate security.”

The San Jose Mercury News called him a “leading advocate of installing more renewable energy on military bases” and said he was a frequent speaker on the subject at high-profile conferences.

Two years ago, while commanding general of Marine Corps Installations West, Jackson was a prominent critic of plans by the Schwarzenegger administration to build a toll road through San Onofre State Beach near Camp Pendleton. Although mentioned in the press as another example of his conservation leanings, the Marines made it clear their objections had only to do with the road’s proximity to Marine training areas.

The plans failed under public opposition.

Jackson is married to the former Susan Gail Steinbach of Lafayette, California, and they have two sons, Brian and Blaine.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Brown Taps Ex-Marine General to Head California Parks Department (by Anthony York, Los Angeles Times)

Gov. Jerry Brown Taps Retired Marine Corps General, San Jose State Football Captain, to Lead State Parks (by Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News)

Governor Brown Appoints New Parks Director (Governor’s Office)

Anthony L. Jackson (California State University)

Fossil Fuel Dependence Leaves America Vulnerable (by Major General Anthony L. Jackson, U-T San Diego op-ed)

Spartan Serves with Honor (by Dave Newhouse, San Jose State University’s Washington Square Magazine)

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