Board of Park Commissioners
Back row, left to right: William Burwinkel, Marcus Thompson, and Douglas Abrams. Front row, left to right: Melissa Wegman and Caren Laverty.
Great Parks of Hamilton County (formerly Hamilton County Park District) was created in 1930 with the mission to protect local natural resources and to provide outdoor recreation and education for area residents. Great Parks of Hamilton County is a separate political subdivision of the State of Ohio, governed by a Board of Park Commissioners. Board members are appointed by the Judge of Hamilton County Probate Court, the Honorable Ralph Winkler.
The Board is comprised of five individuals who serve without compensation for terms of three years. The Board sets governance policies, approves land acquisitions and annual budgets. The Board appoints a Chief Executive Officer who is responsible for the implementation of park policies and leads the overall operation of Great Parks of Hamilton County.
William J. Burwinkel was first appointed to the Board effective January 11, 2016, and most recently reappointed effective January 1, 2023. Mr. Burwinkel is the founder and Chairman of the Board of National Marketshare Group, Inc. He is also the founder of the Adopt A Class Foundation and is active throughout the Greater Cincinnati community bringing together Businesses and Community Groups to serve as Mentors and Role Models for urban children. He was a 2011 Cincinnati Business Courier Second Act award recipient. In recognition of his years of service and dedication, the Dan Beard Council of Boy Scouts of America awarded him their highest non-scout honor, the Silver Beaver Award. Burwinkel is a member of Leadership Cincinnati USA Class 31.
Caren Laverty was first appointed to the Board effective January 12, 2021. She has over 13 years in investment business focused on teaching women the fundamentals of financial investing. Mrs. Laverty is the author of the book "A Woman's Place is in the Market" and is the founder of her financial blog, carenlaverty.com. She is active in the Greater Cincinnati community and volunteers at St. Joseph Orphanage working with young adults in the Independent Living program. Mrs. Laverty is a graduate of Miami University.
Marcus L. Thompson was first appointed to the Board effective January 1, 2022. He is the Director of Corporate Development at TriVersity Construction, and was recognized as a Forty Under 40 award recipient in 2018 by the Cincinnati Business Courier. He is also a graduate of Leadership of Central Kentucky and United Way BOLD. Mr. Thompson supports the Greater Cincinnati community as director of Gameday Operations for Saturday Hoops, serves on the Board of Trustees for the Center for Addiction Treatment, is a member of the Cincinnati Zoo Ambassador Council, and is a mentor and serves on the Board of Directors for the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative. He is a graduate of Seton Hill University.
Douglas Abrams was first appointed to the Board effective January 5, 2023. He is a retired police officer with more than thirty years of experience. Mr. Abrams served as a member and past commander of DART, the Drug Abuse Reduction Task Force, and has also served on active duty in the U.S. Army and U.S. Army Reserves. He is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati and obtained his master's degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Louisville.
Melissa Wegman was first appointed to the Board, effective January 5, 2023. She is the Vice President of her family's owned and operated business, the Wegman Company. Ms. Wegman is a strong believer in giving back to the community. She has been active in community engagement for 35 years, particularly in East Price Hill, Queensgate, the West End, and throughout Cincinnati. She has been an active member of various local business and economic associations. She is a graduate of Lynn University (formerly the College of Boca Raton) in Florida.
Todd Palmeter, Chief Executive Officer, Great Parks of Hamilton County
Todd Palmeter has been the Chief Executive Officer for Great Parks since May 2019. Mr. Palmeter began his career with the park district in 2003 as a Park Planner and played an instrumental role in the development of many of the park district’s most popular destinations. In 2011, he managed the agency’s five-year strategic plan and over the next several years provided leadership for numerous key park district initiatives including the agency’s first Comprehensive Master Plan from 2017 to 2019. With the support of Hamilton County voters and through his leadership, Great Parks passed a second levy in 2021 to support critical infrastructure needs and master plan priorities as identified by the community.
Mr. Palmeter currently serves as Board President for Green Umbrella and also serves on the board for Tri-State Trails and the National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials. He also serves on the Natural Resource Assistance Council and CROWN Steering Committee and is actively involved with the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association. He is an alumnus of Leadership Cincinnati Class 43 and the National Recreation and Parks Association Director’s School and Green School.
Individuals interested in being considered for a future appointment to the Board of Park Commissioners of Great Parks of Hamilton County may submit a letter of interest to the Probate Court of Hamilton County, c/o Honorable Judge Ralph Winkler, William Howard Taft Law Center, 230 East Ninth Street, 10th Floor, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202. Park Commissioners must be Hamilton County residents with demonstrated skills in organizational, business and/or academic leadership and a genuine passion for public parks and the conservation of natural resources.
Previous Park Commissioners
William H. Albers 7/17/1930–6/6/1954 Ralph Rogan 7/17/1930–4/1/1955 L. Alvin Kreis 7/17/1930–9/19/1936 Alfred K. Nippert 11/7/1936–6/4/1953 Louis Nippert 6/4/1953–12/31/1977 Justin A. Rollman 6/14/1954–10/20/1970 Louis Richter 4/6/1955–12/31/1957 Sam Benedict 1/1/1958–12/1/1980 Richard H. Durrell 10/20/1970–8/14/1987 Nolan Carson 1/1/1978–12/31/1995 Paul W. Christensen, Jr. 12/1/1980–12/31/1993 James A.D. Geier 8/19/1987–8/1/2001 Robert A. Goering, Sr. 1/1/1994–12/31/2012 Nancy R. Hamant 2/1/1996–12/31/2010 James E. Bushman 11/21/2001–12/31/2009 John T. Reis 1/1/2010–12/31/2013 Donald S. LaRosa 6/7/2012–12/31/2015 DeVere Burt 1/1/2013–12/31/2018 Geraldine Warner 5/2/2012–12/31/2020 HC Buck Niehoff 1/1/2014–12/31/2020 Joseph C. Seta 1/1/2011–12/31/2022 Stacey DeGraffenreid 1/14/2021–12/31/2022 William Burwinkel 1/1/2016–present Marcus L. Thompson 1/3/2019–present Caren Laverty 1/12/2021–present
2023 Board Meeting Schedule
Jan. 19, 1 p.m., Mill Race Banquet Center (1515 West Sharon Road)
Feb. 16, 1 p.m., Mill Race Banquet Center (1515 West Sharon Road)
March 16, 1 p.m.
April 20, 1 p.m.
May 18, 1 p.m.
June 15, 1 p.m.
July 20, 1 p.m.
Aug. 17, 1 p.m.
Sept. 21, 1 p.m.
Oct. 19, 3 p.m.*
Nov. 16, 2 p.m.
Dec. 14, 1 p.m.
*Board tour will precede the October 19 regular meeting, tentatively scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.
All meetings are held at the Winton Centre, 10245 Winton Road, Cincinnati, OH 45231 unless otherwise stated.
Board Meeting Minutes
2023 Board Meeting Minutes
2022 Board Meeting Minutes
January 20, 2022 Minutes
February 17, 2022 Minutes
March 17, 2022 Minutes
April 21, 2022 Minuets
May 19, 2022 Minutes
June 16, 2022 Minutes
July 18, 2022 Minutes
August 18, 2022 Minutes
September 15, 2022 Minutes
October 20, 2022 Minutes
November 17, 2022 Minutes
December 15, 2022 Minutes
2021 Board Meeting Minutes
January 18, 2021 Minutes
February 18, 2021 Minutes
March 18, 2021 Minutes
April 15, 2021 Minutes
May 20, 2021 Minutes
June 17, 2021 Minutes
July 15, 2021 Minutes
July 22, 2021 Special Meeting Minutes
August 19, 2021 Minutes
September 16, 2021 Minutes
October 21, 2021 Minutes
November 18, 2021 Minutes
December 16, 2021 Minutes
2020 Board Meeting Minutes
January 30, 2020 Minutes
February 20, 2020 Minutes
March 19, 2020 Minutes
April 16, 2020 Minutes
May 21, 2020 Minutes
June 18, 2020 Minutes
July 6, 2020 - Special Meeting Minutes
July 16, 2020 Minutes
August 5, 2020 - Special Meeting Minutes
August 20, 2020 Minutes
September 17, 2020 Minutes
September 30, 2020 - Special Meeting Minutes
October 15, 2020 Minutes
November 19, 2020 Minutes
December 17, 2020 Minutes
Great Parks Advisory Committee
The Great Parks Advisory Committee is a team of dedicated supporters, community leaders and visionaries who will act as a sounding board for Great Parks to develop a strategy to launch a transformative campaign that addresses three key project priorities: establishing Great Parks as a leader in conservation; providing innovative programming; and creating outstanding visitor experiences.
Great Parks Leadership Team
Todd Palmeter, Chief Executive Officer
The Chief Executive Officer serves as the chief administrator and executive officer overseeing all operations of Great Parks of Hamilton County, reporting directly to the Board of Park Commissioners. The Chief Executive Officer works and collaborates with Great Parks Forever.
Bret Henninger, Chief Operating Officer
The Chief Operating Officer oversees the Conservation & Parks, Guest Experiences, Human Resources, Planning, and Ranger divisions.
Jason Rahe, Chief of Conservation and Parks
The Chief of Conservation and Parks oversees all natural areas, wildlife habitat, environmental quality, biological diversity, sustainability initiatives, and park operations for all developed areas.
Andy Collins, Chief Financial Officer
The Chief Financial Officer oversees budgets, cash flow, investments, internal controls, audits, and long-range financial planning; as well as IT & Data Management.
Rachel Messerschmitt, Chief of Guest Experiences
The Chief of Guest Experiences oversees Education & Events, Golf, and all offerings related to our guest’s experience including harbors, campgrounds, banquet centers, athletics, interpretive farm, equestrian center, and gift stores.
Molly deJesus, Chief of Human Resources
The Chief of Human Resources oversees all employee services including payroll, hiring, benefits and training; as well as Volunteer Resources and Risk Management.
Tim Zelek, Chief of Planning
The Chief of Planning oversees Design & Land Acquisition, Facilities & Infrastructure and Marketing & Public Engagement.
Scott Snow, Ranger Chief
The Ranger Chief oversees our state-certified police force responsible for enforcing federal and state laws, as well as Great Parks’ by-laws.
Rachel Doellman, Chief of Marketing & Brand Strategy
The Chief of Marketing & Brand Strategy leads marketing, communications, and engagement campaigns that increase visitation, enhance and promote the Great Parks’ brand and image, and advances regional awareness.
Tom Carleton, Chief of Philanthropy
The Chief of Philanthropy oversees all philanthropic strategies, including planned gifts, partnerships, sponsorships, business development, and grants, and serves as the Executive Director of Great Parks Forever.
Great Parks Forever Board
The Great Parks Forever is facilitated by an all-volunteer Board. For more information visit the Great Parks Forever website.