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Great Parks Leadership

Great Parks of Hamilton County was created in 1930 as the Hamilton County Park District. Great Parks is a separate political subdivision of the State of Ohio, governed by a Board of Park Commissioners.

Upcoming Events

  • Board of Park Commissioners

    Left to right: Marcus Thompson, Caren Laverty, Melissa Wegman, Scott Schuster, and William Burwinkel.

    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 in January 2016 and was reappointed for a third term in January 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 in January 2021 and was reappointed for a second term in January 2024. 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 in January 2019 and was reappointed for a second term in January 2022. He is a graduate of Seton Hill University and serves as Director of Corporate Development for Triversity Construction. Marcus is an active community leader and serves on several other boards including the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky African American Chamber and Cincinnati Youth Collaborative. In 2024, Marcus was recognized as one of the inaugural “513 Serves” Honorees. In 2023, he was recognized as a Making Black History honoree by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. In addition, Marcus has been honored as a Distinguished Alumni by the Forest Hills Local School District and a Distinguished Alumni by Seton Hill University. In 2018, he was recognized as a Forty Under 40 Award Recipient by the Cincinnati Business Courier. In his free time, Marcus can be found in the parks with his wife, Ashley, and their two children Zechariah and Zoe.

    Melissa Wegman was first appointed to the Board in January 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.

    Scott Schuster was first appointed to the Board in February 2024. Mr. Schuster is the President of the Cincinnati Museums Foundation and Vice President of Philanthropy at Cincinnati Museum Center within the historic Union Terminal. He was recognized as a Forty Under 40 award recipient in 2023 by the Cincinnati Business Courier and is a member of Leadership Cincinnati Class 47 through the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. He teaches as an Adjunct Instructor within the Marketing Department at the Carl H. Lindner College of Business at the University of Cincinnati. Scott is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati and supports his alma mater as a member of the Lindner Alumni Council.

    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. Albers7/17/1930–6/6/1954
    Ralph Rogan7/17/1930–4/1/1955
    L. Alvin Kreis7/17/1930–9/19/1936
    Alfred K. Nippert11/7/1936–6/4/1953
    Louis Nippert6/4/1953–12/31/1977
    Justin A. Rollman6/14/1954–10/20/1970
    Louis Richter4/6/1955–12/31/1957
    Sam Benedict1/1/1958–12/1/1980
    Richard H. Durrell10/20/1970–8/14/1987
    Nolan Carson1/1/1978–12/31/1995
    Paul W. Christensen, Jr.12/1/1980–12/31/1993
    James A.D. Geier8/19/1987–8/1/2001
    Robert A. Goering, Sr.1/1/1994–12/31/2012
    Nancy R. Hamant2/1/1996–12/31/2010
    James E. Bushman11/21/2001–12/31/2009
    John T. Reis1/1/2010–12/31/2013
    Donald S. LaRosa6/7/2012–12/31/2015
    DeVere Burt1/1/2013–12/31/2018
    Geraldine Warner5/2/2012–12/31/2020
    HC Buck Niehoff1/1/2014–12/31/2020
    Joseph C. Seta1/1/2011–12/31/2022
    Stacey DeGraffenreid1/14/2021–12/31/2022
    Douglas Abrams1/5/2023–1/9/2024
    William Burwinkel1/1/2016–present
    Marcus L. Thompson1/3/2019–present
    Caren Laverty1/12/2021–present
    Melissa Wegman1/5/2023–present
    Scott Schuster2/9/2024-present
  • 2024 Board Meeting Schedule

    January 18, 2024, 1 p.m.

    February 15, 2024, 1 p.m.

    March 21, 2024, 1 p.m.

    April 18, 2024, 1 p.m.

    May 16, 2024, 1 p.m.

    June 20, 2024, 1 p.m.

    July 18, 2024, 1 p.m.

    August 21, 2024, 1 p.m.

    September 19 2024, 1 p.m.

    October 17, 2024*, 3 p.m.

    November 21, 2024, 1 p.m.

    December 19, 2024, 1 p.m.

    *Board tour will precede the October 17 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 Rules

    Board meeting rules can be viewed here.

  • Board Meeting Minutes

    2024 Board Meeting Minutes

    June 20, 2024 Minutes

    May 16, 2024 Minutes

    April 18, 2024 Minutes

    March 21, 2024 Minutes

    February 15, 2024 Minutes

    January 18, 2024 Minutes


    2023 Board Meeting Minutes

    January 19, 2023 Minutes

    February 16, 2023 Minutes

    March 16, 2023 Minutes

    April 20, 2023 Minutes

    May 18, 2023 Minutes

    June 15, 2023 Minutes

    July 20, 2023 Minutes

    August 17, 2023 Minutes

    September 21, 2023 Minutes

    October 19, 2023 Minutes

    November 16, 2023 Minutes

    December 14, 2023 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 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.

    Janet Broughton Murray, Chief of Planning
    The Chief of Planning oversees Design & Construction, Planning, Building Systems, and Land Acquisition.

    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.

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