Lewis Griswold

Sequoia-Kings parks group hires a leader who loves small communities

Karen Dallett has been hired as executive director of Sequoia Parks Conservancy, the nonprofit partner of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Karen Dallett has been hired as executive director of Sequoia Parks Conservancy, the nonprofit partner of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Sequoia Parks Conservancy in Three Rivers and Ash Mountain has hired Karen Dallett, who shares a love for small towns, big trees and the American West, as its new executive director.

“There’s nothing greater than putting your forehead against a giant sequoia,” she said.

The Sequoia Parks Conservancy is the nonprofit partner of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

It operates the bookstore at the park’s Ash Mountain headquarters and stores at other locations, conducts Crystal Cave tours, helps fund educational programs such as Ranger in the Classroom, repairs trails, restores meadows, arranges fun outdoor activities such as hikes and snowshoeing, and manages projects benefiting the parks.

The nonprofit group was in need of a new director because of the pending retirement of executive director Mark Tilchen.

Tilchen said he knows Dallett through the Public Lands Alliance and believes her experience in land stewardship, nonprofit work and environmental issues will advance the group’s mission.

“She is a strong leader who can take the organization to the next level in support of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks,” he said.

Dallett’s first day will be April 17.

She is now executive director of the Glen Canyon Natural History Association. Before that, she was executive director of Friends of Black Rock-High Rock, whose programs included introducing young people who had never rolled up a sleeping bag to the great outdoors. (The Black Rock desert in Nevada is where the Burning Man festival is held.)

She has also worked in San Francisco.

“I love California,” she said. “I love the state, the people. I love the politics.”

Environmental supporters must be “nimble to the administration in the White House,” she said.

Dallett is a graduate of Saint Bernard College in Cullman, Alabama, where she majored in business and economics.

She said she will live in Three Rivers and looks forward to participating in community life.

“I love small communities,” she said. “You can’t make change and affect something bigger than yourself without becoming part of the fabric of the community.”

Judge John O’Rourke

John Gilcrest O’Rourke of Hanford, a retired Superior Court judge, died March 2. He was 82.

Mr. O’Rourke also served as Kings County District Attorney from 1966 to 1979.

A memorial service was held Friday in Hanford.

He was a graduate of Lemoore High School, University of Notre Dame and Hastings College of Law. He served in the Navy after college and was an officer in the Naval Reserve.

Mr. O’Rourke became a judge of the Justice Court in 1985, soon followed by a Municipal Court judgeship, and became a Superior Court judge when the trial courts unified.

He retired in 2003 at age 68. A story in The Bee when he retired said he was all business on the bench, but was loved by his staff for his kindness. A bailiff called him “Judge Sweetheart.”

Farmer of the year

The Kiwanis Club of Tulare will present its 57th Farmer of the Year award to Doug Mederos, of Doug Les Farms, on March 29.

Mederos grew up on a dairy and diversified farming operation near Tulare. He graduated from Tulare Western High School, College of the Sequoias and California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo.

After college, he came home and became a partner in P & M Farms with his father, uncle and cousin. Later, he was the owner of Pires and Mederos Dairy and farmed with his cousin, Larry Pires.

In 1996, he began farming with his wife, Leslie, under the name Doug Les Farms. He farms more than 1,000 acres growing cotton, beans, alfalfa, corn, almonds and pistachios.

He is president of Oak Valley Union School District board of trustees and has been a board member of Mid-Valley Cotton Growers for more than 20 years.

CSET: Fill out a survey

Every two years, Community Services Employment Training conducts a survey of community needs, issues and goals in Tulare County. Results are used to write the community action plan.

“The community action survey provides an opportunity for residents to share their opinions, desires and concerns about significant issues and services available in their communities,” said executive director Mary Alice Escarsega-Fechner.

The survey is used to identify gaps in community services such as recreational opportunities for youth, affordable housing, employment training, health education, and public transportation, CSET said.

It can be taken in English and Spanish at www.cset.org/survey. Printable surveys are available online and should be returned to CSET at 312 NW Third Ave., Visalia, CA, 93277.

The deadline is March 31.

Lewis Griswold covers news of the South Valley for The Bee: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold