Fresno names new parks director

The Fresno BeeMay 19, 2014 

Manuel Mollinedo

SPECIAL TO THE BEE

The former director of the Honolulu Zoo has been named the city of Fresno's new parks director.

Manuel A. Mollinedo will begin work June 2. His annual salary will be $147,000.

"We are fortunate to have someone of Manuel's extensive experience and leadership ability joining our team," City Manager Bruce Rudd said. "He'll be able to step right in and help build on the successes our staff has achieved without a full-time director guiding the way."

Mollinedo led the effort to build a new $12 million elephant habitat at the Honolulu Zoo. During his tenure, the zoo unveiled a new entrance, and fixed problems that hindered accreditation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums including putting in new signs and maps for visitors. The Honolulu Zoo earned accreditation in 2012.

Mollinedo's government experience includes two years as general manager for the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. He has been director of parks and recreation for Chula Vista and Austin, Texas. He has served on on the California State Parks and Recreation Commission and was executive director of the Los Angeles and San Francisco zoos.

Mollinedo has bachelor's and master's of science in recreation administration from California State University, Los Angeles, where he also earned a bachelor's in Anthropology. He was honored by Cal State Los Angeles with its Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1998. Mollinedo also has a master's in public administration from the University of Southern California.

All of City Hall's major departments learned new ways of doing things during the Great Recession. Probably none made more adjustments than parks.

Construction of new parks was put on hold. Volunteers were wooed to help with maintenance. Nonprofits were enlisted to keep community centers open.

Parks Director Randall Cooper reshaped the department during the era of former Mayor Alan Autry. Programs grew. Then money got tight.

Cooper retired in January 2011. Rudd, then an assistant city manager, donned the director's cap. Rudd said he was merely an interim boss. But the years rolled by and he stayed in charge, even after he became city manager last year.

Funding worries are lifting. The City Council recently gave the green light to build two new parks -- Martin Ray Reilly Park in southeast Fresno and Inspiration Park west of Highway 99 -- despite no guarantees for maintenance money.

The big question facing Mollinedo: Will nonprofits and volunteers continue to be dominant forces?

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6272 or ghostetter@fresnobee.com. Read his City Beat blog at fresnobee.com/city-beat.

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