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After 45 years of service in the field of parks and recreation, Dianne Hoover, Certified Park and Recreation Professional (CPRP), is retiring to enjoy being an active outdoor participant.
Hoover has left an indelible mark on the city of Bakersfield, California, as the director of the city’s Recreation and Parks Department. After having served in several park and recreation leadership positions in the Midwest, Hoover joined the city of Bakersfield in 2005 as director of recreation and parks where she oversaw impressive growth in the ninth-largest city in the state. During her tenure leading the Bakersfield department, 13 new parks, as well as nine additional spray parks, were added; numerous fields renovated; and new courts and playgrounds were built. These amenities have enhanced recreation opportunities for the community of Bakersfield. Through Hoover’s leadership, Bakersfield became the first recreation and park agency in the state to achieve and maintain NRPA’s Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) accreditation for 10 years. Additionally, the department received Gold Medal Finalist status in 2009 and in 2014.
Bakersfield also received national recognition for its naming rights agreements for sports and entertainment facilities. Combined with naming rights, Hoover was able to secure long-term agreements with local youth sports organizations to maintain and operate sports parks within the city.
Her journey began even before she was aware that full-time jobs existed in outdoor recreation and park management. Since she grew up participating in outdoor activities with her brothers, Hoover knew that she could not be tied to a desk for any length of time — so she pursued opportunities that allowed her to make life better for children and families wherever she worked.
She came of college-age in an era and area where young women were discouraged from seeking education past high school, and in a society where expenses for higher education could not be justified nor met through existing funds. With great determination, Hoover sought student loan programs and grants to complete her first step toward her destiny.
She earned two master’s degrees — one in recreation, park and tourism administration from Western Illinois University and one in public administration from the University of Dayton. Hoover’s park and recreation career includes service in multiple municipalities in Ohio — including as the assistant director/superintendent for the Cincinnati Recreation Commission — and in Indiana. She served in many leadership roles with NRPA, including chairing 14 CAPRA Visit Teams and as president of the organization in 2010. In 2020, Hoover served as president of the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration. When her term began in late 2019, coronavirus (COVID-19) was still unknown in the United States. As her presidency continued through 2020, the pandemic had reached every corner of the country and made a lasting impact. Parks became the lifeblood for outdoor opportunities, for people to exercise while physically distancing, and as the neighborhood gathering place to check on each other. Park and recreation staff became essential service providers in offering clean parks and food service to those in need, expanding into ambassadors promoting safe distancing and wearing masks while in public.
As Hoover ends her professional career in parks and recreation, she plans to spend her time in outdoor pursuits and volunteering to assist in making life better for others, wherever that may be.