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California state parks director steps down

 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California's state parks director abruptly announced his retirement Wednesday, just 19 months after he took control of the 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.

Jackson took office 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.

Jackson had spent most of his career in the military. On the day he was sworn in, he said he was "kind of stunned I'm in this position, but I'm also exhilarated."

Jackson's retirement from the $150,000-a-year position will take effect June 30.

"He came to the department during its darkest hour, bringing stability and consistency," California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird said in a statement. "After almost 40 years of public service, he has more than earned the right to retire to private life."

An audit released a month after he took office cited poor management and insufficient training at the department. Auditors with the state Department of Finance found that for 19 years, parks staff intentionally under-reported funds used by the governor's office to craft the state budget.

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