Commissioner Biographies

RUE MAPP, Vallejo

Commission Chair

Rue Mapp is founder and chief executive officer of Outdoor Afro, a national not-for-profit that celebrates and inspires Black connections in nature. In 2010, Mapp was invited to the Obama White House to participate in the America’s Great Outdoors Conference, and subsequently to take part in a think-tank to inform the launch of the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative. She was appointed program officer for the Stewardship Council’s Foundation for Youth Investment to oversee its grant-making program from 2010-2012. Rue’s work has also been recognized with numerous awards and distinctions, including: The Root 100 as one of the most influential African Americans in the country, the Outdoor Industry Inspiration Award, and the National Wildlife Federation Communication award (received alongside President Bill Clinton.) She is proud to serve on the Outdoor Industry Association and The Wilderness Society boards. In 2019, Rue was named a National Geographic fellow and received the 24th Heinz Award in the Environment category. A graduate of UC Berkeley (with a Degree in Art History), Rue’s skills and background make her a unique voice via the leadership and programs she has instituted through her career, enlightening a diverse community to the wonders and benefits of the outdoors. She is the mother of three nature-loving young adults, and enjoys exploring.

Rue was appointed to the California State Parks and Recreation Commission by Governor Jerry Brown in 2014, has since served as Vice Chair of the Commission, and currently serves as Chair of the Commission.

PHIL GINSBURG, San Francisco

Commission Vice Chair

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. 

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

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.

Danny 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.

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

ASMA MAHDI, Los Angeles

Asma Mahdi is a policy director at Better World Group leading the firm’s racial justice practice and advising clients on how to create inclusive, anti-racist environmental and climate policies. Most recently, she worked with the state of Oregon to develop a Climate Equity Blueprint to update the state's Climate Change Adaptation Framework. Prior to Better World Group, she led communications for the UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge – a university-wide initiative focused on developing technologies, policies, and strategies to transition L.A. County to 100% renewable energy, 100% local water, and enhanced ecosystem health by 2050. From 2012 to 2016, Asma was the outreach coordinator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program through I.M. Systems Group. She led national outreach efforts on marine debris working closely with National Estuarine Research Reserves as well as museums and aquariums across the United States. Asma also co-wrote the educational series “Trash Talk” that earned a Regional Emmy Award in 2015. From 2016 to 2017 she served as interim executive director of Green Muslims, a faith-based nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C. In 2014, she joined the organization’s board and developed “Our Deen is Green,” an outdoor youth-education program. Asma earned her bachelor’s in geography and environmental studies at UCLA and her master’s in environmental science and management from the Bren School at UC Santa Barbara. 

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

KATHERINE TOY, San Francisco

Katherine Toy is Executive Vice President, Partnerships and Programs at the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the nonprofit partner of the National Park Service and The Presidio Trust, which provides support and innovative programming to the Golden Gate National Parks, the most visited national park unit in America. Katherine provides leadership to the Conservancy's youth, education, community engagement and volunteer programs, as well as to the Institute at the Golden Gate, the Conservancy’s park innovation lab. Throughout her career she has been a champion of civic engagement and volunteerism. Believing that “everyday people make history every day,” she has worked to tell more inclusive stories in our public spaces. In particular, she has spent 20+ years working on the restoration of the historic U.S. Immigration Station at Angel Island State Park in San Francisco Bay. Katherine served as the first executive director of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation and later chaired its board of directors. Katherine is a member of the National Advisory Board of the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University.

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

DIANE WITTENBERG, San Marino

Diane Wittenberg served as executive director of the California Plug-in Electric Vehicle Collaborative from 2010 to 2012. She was executive director at The Climate Registry from 2007 to 2010 and president of the California Climate Action Registry from 2001 to 2006. She held multiple positions at Edison International from 1985 to 2000, including vice president of corporate communications, president of Edison EV (Electric Vehicle), president of the Edison Utility Alliances, and Vice President of corporate communications at Southern California Edison and Edison International. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Partners in Care Foundation.

Diane was appointed to the California State Parks and Recreation Commission by Governor Jerry Brown in 2014 and has served as Chair of the Commission.