Board of Park Commissioners
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, 2020. 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.
Stacey DeGraffenreid was first appointed to the Board effective January 14, 2021. She is the Assistant Chief Prosecuting Attorney in the criminal division of the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s office, where she has worked for 19 years. Ms. DeGraffenreid supports the Greater Cincinnati community and mentors young ladies through coaching youth basketball and soccer. She is a graduate of University of Louisville and University of Cincinnati College of Law.
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.
Joseph C. Seta was first appointed to the Board effective January 1, 2011 and most recently reappointed effective January 1, 2020. He served as the President and CEO of Seta, Appleman & Showell, an advertising and graphic design firm, for 22 years and as Managing Director of Cincinnati Landor Associates Design Group. He has served on the advisory board for the College of Mount Saint Joseph and was a board member for the Central Academy of Commercial Art. He attended Xavier University and the Central Academy of Commercial Art.
Marcus L. Thompson was first appointed to the Board effective January 3, 2019. He is Community Development Manager at Skanska 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.
Todd Palmeter, Chief Executive Officer, Great Parks of Hamilton County
Todd Palmeter has been the Chief Executive Officer for Great Parks of Hamilton County since May 16, 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 including Highfield Discovery Garden, Fernbank Park, and the Mitchell Memorial Forest Mountain Bike Trail. He managed the agency’s five-year strategic plan and provided leadership for several key park district initiatives including the agency’s first Comprehensive Master Plan. He currently serves on the Board for Green Umbrella, the Social Justice Committee for the National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials, and is actively involved with the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association. Mr. Palmeter 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–present William Burwinkel 1/1/2016–present Marcus L. Thompson 1/3/2019–present Caren Laverty 1/12/2021–present Stacey DeGraffenreid 1/14/2021–present
2021 Board Meeting Schedule
- January 21, 1 p.m.
- February 18, 1 p.m.
- March 18, 1 p.m.
- April 15, 1 p.m.
- May 20, 1 p.m.
- June 17, 1 p.m.
- July 15, 1 p.m.
- July 22, 10 a.m. *Special Meeting* The purpose of the special meeting is to discuss Hamilton County Auditor’s Certification and a Resolution to Submit the Question of an Additional Tax Levy.
- August 19, 1 p.m.
- September 16, 1 p.m.
- October 21, 3 p.m.
- November 18, 1 p.m.
- December 16, 1 p.m.
All meetings are held at the Winton Centre, 10245 Winton Road, Cincinnati, OH 45231 unless otherwise stated.
Board Meeting 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
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.
Alicia Culman, Chief of Philanthropy
The Chief of Philanthropy oversees all philanthropic strategies including planned gifts, partnerships, sponsorship, business development and grants; as well as serves as Executive Director of Great Parks Forever.
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.
Great Parks Forever Board
The Great Parks Forever is facilitated by an all-volunteer Board. For more information visit the Great Parks Forever website.