COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Columbus mayor Andrew Ginther appointed Bernita Reese as the new Columbus Recreation and Parks Department director Monday.

Reese enters the role with more than two decades of experience, including a previous service for three years as assistant director. She will succeed interim director Paul Rakosky, who served in that role since 2019, and begin her new position in January.

“Bernita is the consummate public servant, one who embraces collaboration and innovation to improve outcomes and achieve results,” Ginther said in a news release. “She intuitively understands the power of an engaging and inclusive parks system to improve lives and promote shared prosperity, and I am delighted to welcome her back to Columbus to produce the highest possible impact for all our residents.”

Reese’s most recent position was the director of parks and recreation in Huntsville, Alabama. In that role, she led developments of a playground replacement program and helped to increase athletic tourism.

In Columbus, she helped lead administrative, programming, planning, budgeting, maintenance, and construction activities. Reese has also led recreation and parks departments in Georgia, Illinois, and for the United States Army in Heidelberg, Germany.

“I am grateful to Mayor Ginther and the Recreation and Parks Commission for selecting me for this role,” Reese said. “I will work to strengthen the team and to create an excellent system of service for our community.  As we move forward we will focus on our mission to connect communities equitably through programming that reaches residents where they are and safe spaces in our community centers and parks.”