Parks Director Marlene Finley Passes the Torch
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
After just three years, San Mateo County Parks Director Marlene Finley can tick off an impressive list of accomplishments, including leading the Department in its transition from a division within Public Works to the stand alone Parks Department, the opening of the 2.6 mile-long Devil’s Slide Trail and launching the Department’s first Natural Resource Management unit. Finley and San Mateo County can be proud of what has been achieved. Looking forward to 2017 means achieving more for the San Mateo County Parks Department, but without Finley at the helm as she announced her retirement earlier this month.
"The past three years have been a sprint for County Parks with many projects completed, programs initiated and new staff hired," says Finley. "Personally, this has been a career highlight for me – an amazing system of parks, talented staff, wonderful friends groups and volunteers as well as support from the County Supervisors. I step away confident that San Mateo County Parks will continue to thrive in the care of parks staff, led by Sarah Birkeland who will serve as interim Director." Finley’s last day will be the final day of 2016.
"Personally, this has been a career highlight for me—an amazing system of parks, talented staff, wonderful friends groups and volunteers as well as support from the County Supervisors. I step away confident that San Mateo County Parks will continue to thrive in the care of parks staff..."
Interim Director Sarah Birkeland joined the Department in March 2016 and has been managing park operations, planning and natural resources management. She is no stranger to complex land management issues having served as an attorney for the Office of the General Counsel in the US Department of Agriculture for 12 years.
Birkeland practiced as a landscape architect for a firm in Seattle early in her career. Following law school, she worked as an attorney with a law firm based in Utah where she provided analysis, briefing and strategy in federal and state environmental law, water law, mine safety and land use and zoning. She received her undergraduate degree in botany from Oregon State University, a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Washington, and JD degree from Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley.
"We are lucky to have Sarah," Finley notes. "She brings a unique combination of design skills, knowledge of natural resource management and critical thinking abilities to work within an increasingly complex natural and social environment." Birkeland describes her work style as collaborative, inquisitive, and analytical and is eager to use her skills and experience to work with Department, County staff and the community to move forward all the projects Parks has in development.