Phil T. Hester is an East Coast person who finally found his way to the sunny West Coast. He was born in North Carolina, graduated from North Carolina State University, and received his Masters from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. As a person who participated in sports all his life, it seemed only logical that his first professional recreation position would be as an Athletic Director with the City of Danville, Virginia. He soon was promoted to Assistant Director of the department, which provided him additional experience outside the athletic field. While in Danville, Phil realized that working in the field of parks and recreation was what he wanted to do the rest of his life and he decided to take a position in Raleigh, North Carolina. This position allowed him to gather further experience working with seniors, special groups, special events, outdoor activities, etc. It was while in Raleigh that Phil was approached about becoming a member of the staff of a new state agency in Virginia called the Virginia Office of Recreation. As a State Recreation Consultant, he was able to travel around the state working with local committees in establishing new park and recreation agencies. After a few years as a State Recreation Consultant, he was promoted to Chief of the State Office of Recreation. While with the Commonwealth of Virginia, the office helped in the establishment of over 85 new park and recreation agencies in Virginia.
While working with one of these jurisdictions, Chesterfield County, Virginia, Phil was given the opportunity to be the first Director of a community which, at that time, was the fastest growing county in the nation. As the first Director, Phil had the opportunity to hire staff, develop the budget, initiate new programs, develop new parks, and generally develop the department from the beginning. It was quite a challenge, which ultimately led to the department being selected, in 1985-86, as the best operated department in the nation by the National Association of Park and Recreation Executives. As Phil has said many times, it was fun to develop a new department from nothing, but "I will never want to do it again." While in Virginia, Phil was active in the Virginia Park and Recreation Society, and ultimately served as its President.In 1986, Phil made a major career and life change by accepting a position as Assistant Director of the Los Angeles County Park and Recreation Department, one of the largest agencies in the nation. Phil had never been to California before but knew this was the place for him the first time he saw the Southern California sunshine. This was the start of a period of tough economic times in California, which produced major challenges for the county, and specifically for the park and recreation agency. After a couple of years, Phil was given the opportunity to move to Long Beach to oversee a number of divisions and sections that were being combined under one manager, as part of a major department reorganization. As the newly created Manager of Parks, Phil became responsible for parks, beaches, golf courses, marinas, community centers, and the capital improvement program for the Department. With the economic challenges in the early 1990's to late 1990's in California continuing, the department was forced to make numerous changes, while continuing to provide excellent service to its citizens. Even with these numerous challenges, the department was recognized as a Gold Medal winner by the National Recreation and Park Association in 1998. In January 1999, Phil became Director of the Long Beach Park, Recreation and Marine Department. He has embarked on numerous major projects, including developing the department's first strategic plan; updating the department's open space plan, which was last completed in 1973; completed the first new major park in the city in many years; and completing numerous capital projects, like skate parks, athletic complexes, launch ramps, aquatic facilities, etc.
Phil sees the future of our profession as being bright and looks forward to continue to develop his abilities and opportunities to contribute to this future.
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