Following confirmation from the Honolulu City Council today, Laura H. Thielen has officially begun her service as the Director for the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR).
“Laura possesses the passion, experience and a deep seeded motivation to take care of our public lands. Consequently, I am confident Laura will excel in her new leadership role.” said Mayor Rick Blangiardi. “Her skillset represents the necessary mix of pursuing what is right by the public with an intimate understanding of the government process. We have many issues facing our public lands, and she is absolutely the right person to take charge and work with our City team to address them.”
As our Director-designate over the past several weeks, Laura has been familiarizing herself with the vast and diverse department, conducting site visits, and meeting staff in all divisions.
Now as Director, Laura will oversee more than 800 regular employees and a multi-million dollar budget used to maintain and improve the facilities of 304 designated park and garden locations on nearly 5,000 acres of land across O’ahu (in addition to more than 1,250 acres of undeveloped land). Laura will rely on her extensive experience in government in this endeavor, which includes:
- State Senator for Senate District 25 (Kailua to Hawai‘i Kai) from 2012 through 2020. During that time she served as Chair of the Committee on Water and Land followed by Chair of the Committee on Government Operations.
- Chairperson of the State Department of Land and Natural Resources from 2007 to 2010.
- Director of the State Office of Planning (lead agency for the State Coastal Zone Management Program) from 2005 to 2007.
Through all of these positions, and as a keiki o ka ‘āina, Laura has developed a recognition of the value and responsibility for caring for our lands, open spaces, recreational, historic and cultural places, while developing and operating programs to build civic character, healthy lifestyles, and embedding the preservation and perpetuation of kuleana for the care of our unique environment and culture.
Former DPR Director Michele K. Nekota is now serving as the DPR’s Deputy Director. As a career-long, award-winning Parks and Recreation administrator and athlete, Michele has always kept the outdoors and recreational activities as an integral part of her life. Her career and personal accomplishments have brought her full circle. She grew up on O‘ahu as the daughter of a respected Honolulu DPR Director before excelling as a student and professional volleyball player. In addition to a 29-year tenure as a Parks and Recreation Administrator in Salt Lake County, Utah, Michele most recently served as Director of the Honolulu DPR from April 2014 through December 2020. With over 34 years of experience as a DPR administrator, she has supervised nearly 7,500 employees, overseen hundreds of millions of dollars in operating and capital improvement budgets, and helped organize and facilitate the creation and renovation of park facilities in Hawaiʻi and Utah.