Commissioner Biographies

PHIL GINSBURG, San Francisco

Commission Chairperson

Phil Ginsburg is the general manager of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department. With more than 4,100 acres and over 220 parks under its jurisdiction, the Recreation and Park Department stewards some of the most spectacular public spaces in the world, including Golden Gate Park, Coit Tower and the Palace of Fine Arts. Under Phil’s leadership, San Francisco became the first City in the United States where 100% of its residents live within a ten-minute walk of a park. Phil has led his organization through transformational improvements to the public realm and he has made equity and increasing access to public recreation and to nature, the department’s primary objective.  Phil has built a financially sustainable model for San Francisco’s park system through ballot advocacy, the strategic use of public-private partnerships and philanthropy, creative revenue strategies, technology and administrative efficiencies. During his tenure, San Francisco has been consistently ranked one of the nation’s top five park systems. 

Ginsburg was appointed to the California State Parks and Recreation Commission by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2019 and currently serves as Vice Chairperson of the Commission.

FRANCESCA VIETOR, San Francisco

Commission Vice Chairperson

Francesca Vietor is Senior Advisor on the Environment at the San Francisco Foundation. Her work spans across the foundation, where she responds to general inquiries about the environment, manages the Youth Access to Nature Fund, provides environmental recommendations for donors, and engages community stakeholders on environmental issues. Francesca has worked in various staff positions at the foundation since 2011.

Previously and over the past three decades, Francesca held multiple leadership positions at environmental non-profits including Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace and the Chez Panisse Foundation. She has served as president of the Urban Forest Council, president of San Francisco’s Commission on the Environment and president of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, where she held the environmental justice and policy seat for twelve years. Francesca has served on many non-profit boards, including Environmental Working Group, Center for Environmental Health and SPUR, and she is currently on the boards of Trust for Public Land, Point Reyes National Seashore Association and the Socially Responsibility Network at her alma mater, Georgetown University.

Francesca is a third generation San Franciscan who was brought up in the Bay Area during a time when there was widespread access to opportunity and much less income disparity. San Francisco was known for diversity, inclusion, and natural beauty, which are now under threat. She is committed to helping reverse these trends, to create greater access to nature and to speak up for the green spaces and wild places.

Vietor was appointed to the California State Parks and Recreation Commission by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2022.

 

DANNY J. BAKEWELL, SR., Bradbury

Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. is a businessman, community leader, national civil rights activist, and philanthropist who possesses the unique ability to bring diverse bodies of people together for the common good of their communities, and the nation as a whole. His commitment to self-help, dignity, and respect for African Americans has earned him the reputation as “one of the most dynamic leaders in America today”, says the Los Angeles Times. Bakewell became President and CEO of The Los Angeles Brotherhood Crusade in 1974 and now serves as Chairman of the Board. He has been recognized as one of California’s leading civil rights activists for over 30 years, and is also a very successful and well-known business leader. As Chairman of Bakewell Media (The Los Angeles Sentinel, The LA Watts Times), Bakewell is unapologetically the loudest voice in Los Angeles when it comes to the state of Black People and the Black Community. Bakewell is also the Creator/Founder/CEO of Taste of Soul, an annual “Food, Family and Fun” Festival which is the largest street festival of its kind with attendance over 3 Million people since it started in 2005. Bakewell is also the Chairman of the Bakewell Company, one of the largest African American privately-owned development companies in the United States. Bakewell brokers and heads multi-million-dollar revitalization efforts in cities throughout California and is well known for having African American, local, and women-owned businesses as part of his large development team which stands as a working model of inclusion and financial success in areas often considered by others as unprofitable, and impossible to develop. Politicians seek his advice because of his expertise and influence with both business and community groups. Bakewell played a significant role as an advisor to several Los Angeles Mayors from former Mayor Tom Bradley through the current Mayor Eric Garcetti, and in helping President Barack Obama win election in 2008 and re-election in 2012. Born in New Orleans, Bakewell now resides in Bradbury, California, with his wife, Aline Bakewell, Esq., and is the father of three children: Danny Jr., Brandi, and Sabriya (Deceased). He has four grandchildren.

Bakewell was appointed to the California State Parks and Recreation Commission by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2021.

SARA BARTH, Pleasanton

Sara Barth has been Executive Director of Sempervirens Fund since 2016. Sempervirens Fund is California’s first land trust and has been working to protect and permanently preserve redwood forests, and make them available for the public to enjoy, since 1900. Sempervirens Fund was the driving force behind the creation of Big Basin, California’s first state park. The organization has continued to expand and enhance redwood parks in the Santa Cruz Mountains ever since and led in creating the new Robert C. Kirkwood entrance for Castle Rock State Park in 2019. Sara is also responsible for overseeing the restoration and stewardship of over 11,000 acres of redwood forests owned by Sempervirens Fund. Prior to this, Sara served for 13 years in senior leadership roles for The Wilderness Society, including as Vice President for Regional Conservation, where she directed efforts to add over 1 million acres of federal land in California to the National Wilderness Preservation System. Previously, Sara was an environmental advisor to U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer in Washington, D.C. Her other professional experience includes working for the National Wildlife Federation and the World Wildlife Fund on federal natural resource policy issues. Sara has been a board member of Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders, an organization that provides skills training, networking and mentorship to young professionals, since its creation in 2004. She served on the board of the California League of Conservation Voters for 9 years.

Barth was appointed to the California State Parks and Recreation Commission by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2020.

CHRISTINA JAROMAY, Elk Grove

Christina Jaromay received her Bachelor’s from California State University Sacramento, in Applied Ethics in Law with a minor in Business Management. She started her parks career 11 years ago at California State Parks where she most recently created and led the Partnership Division. She oversaw programs such as concessions, cooperating associations, corporate sponsorships, and volunteer programs, generating more than $100M collectively in revenue and in-kind services annually. Prior to the Partnerships Division, Christina worked in the Acquisition and Development Division, managing the division’s contracts unit, including public works and architectural and engineering services for major developments. Prior to state service, Christina was in the technology and marketing fields working internationally with North America, Asia-Pacific, and Japan and with clients in the General, Hispanic, and LGBTQ+ markets. Christina is currently the director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department for the City of Lodi.

Jaromay was appointed to the California State Parks and Recreation Commission by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2022.

JEFF WILLIAMS, Ventura

Jeffrey Williams is the Vice President of Production for Unscripted Television at Paramount Global, overseeing content for BET Media Group.  In addition to Jeff’s professional work, his dedication to environmental stewardship and community improvement is reflected in his current role as the Vice Chair of the Board of Directors at Heal the Bay, a prominent Santa Monica-based environmental non-profit organization. By focusing on the restoration of coastal waters and watersheds in Los Angeles, Jeff actively contributes to creating cleaner and safer environments for both marine life and local communities.

As founder of the Black Surfers Collective in 2012 - a non-profit organization in the Los Angeles area promoting and fostering cultural awareness and diversity within the surfing community - Jeff has been instrumental in helping to reshape the narrative of surfing, making it an inclusive experience open to all.  

Having served and earned an honorable discharge from the California Army National Guard had a significant impact upon Jeff’s commitment to service in community and environmental related causes. Jeff resides in Ventura County with his wife and daughter, striving to create a life driven by purpose and positive change.

Williams was appointed to the California State Parks and Recreation Commission by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2023

BENJAMIN BASHEIN, Palm Springs

Benjamin Bashein is a seasoned social impact executive, with more than 20 years of experience advocating for resources, programs and policies to address the most pressing social issues facing society, including international public health, youth development, HIV, human rights, disaster relief, and place-making. He has a unique expertise in collaborating with talent, creatives, athletes, and other influencers to advance their philanthropic goals. Ben consults on development, communications, and strategic planning for nonprofits, partnerships and CSR for brands, and cultural production across sectors.

He currently serves as Executive Director of Tony Hawk’s foundation, The Skatepark Project (TSP). TSP provides funding, technical assistance, and advocacy support to local activists so they can establish free, safe, accessible skateparks in low-income and otherwise under-resourced communities. TSP has helped to build almost 700 parks across all 50 states, which are used by more than 9 million young people each year. Under his leadership, the organization has successfully piloted a BIPOC Fellowship Program; launched a Native & Indigenous Skateboarding Program; expanded its Environmental Impact Award initiative; funded the international Good Push “Pushing Against Racism” grants; and inaugurated major new municipal partnerships to expand access to recreation from New York City to Atlanta, and from Boston to Sacramento.

Ben serves on the board of directors of Gotham Park and the advisory board of environmental advocacy organization Bridge Initiative.

Bashein was appointed to the California State Parks and Recreation Commission by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2023.