BISMARCK, N.D. – Melissa Baker, the assistant administrator and chief of operations for Montana State Parks, has been appointed to lead the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department, Gov. Doug Burgum announced today.
Baker will begin her new role as department director on April 24.
She is currently leading the work of regional park managers and all field-level parks staff within the 55-unit Montana State Parks system. She also oversees the system’s Planning, Heritage, Volunteer, AmeriCorps, and Interpretation Programs and directed the development of a statewide Heritage Resources Strategic Plan.
“Melissa Baker brings the strategic planning experience and management skills we need to lead our first-rate parks system into the 21st century,” Burgum said. “Her leadership and knowledge of parks systems across multiple states will be a great asset as we strive to enhance and expand outdoor recreational opportunities to improve our quality of life, drive tourism and attract and retain a skilled workforce.”
Baker, who lives in Helena, Mont., previously worked for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as regional team supervisor of operations and visitor services at Northern Highland American Legion State Forest. She also was a professor of forest recreation in the College of Natural Resources at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and taught parks recreation and tourism at the University of Maine.
Baker was born in Hayward, Calif., and grew up in South Fulton, Tenn. She earned a master’s degree in outdoor recreation management from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and a doctorate in forestry from the University of Montana in Missoula.
“I’m grateful to Gov. Burgum and thrilled for the opportunity to work on enriching the experience of park visitors in North Dakota,” Baker said. “State parks play an important role in preserving our natural and cultural resources and creating a healthy, vibrant state to attract new residents, workers and tourists.”
Jesse Hanson, who has served as interim director since December, will continue in his role as field operations manager. His service and leadership is appreciated, Burgum said.