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

    Board of Commissioners of the Great Parks of Hamilton County

    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.

    Board Meeting Rules

    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. 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
    William Burwinkel1/1/2016–present
    Marcus L. Thompson1/3/2019–present
    Caren Laverty1/12/2021–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, 1 p.m.
    Dec. 15, 1 p.m.

    The Board of Park Commissioners continues to monitor the Ohio Department of Health Director’s Health Advisories and HB404.

    *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 Rules

  • Board Meeting 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.

    Meeting Minutes

    January 12, 2021 minutes
    February 8, 2021 minutes
    March 9, 2021 minutes
    April 27, 2021 sub-committee meeting minutes
    May 21, 2021 sub-committee meeting minutes
    June 8, 2021 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.

    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.

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