Former Marine general chosen to lead state parks

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SAN DIEGO — A retired Marine major general who lives in Fallbrook was appointed Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown to take command of California’s troubled state parks system.

Jackson takes the helm of a department that was rocked by financial scandal this summer that led to the resignation of longtime Director Ruth Coleman and other top department officials. Parks officials had squirreled away more than $54 million without informing the governor’s office, even as dozens of parks had been slated for closure because of budget cuts.

The governor alluded to the scandal in his comments praising Jackson Tuesday. “Under Maj. Gen. Jackson’s leadership, I am confident that the stewardship of California’s beaches, forests, estuaries, dunes and wetlands is in good hands,” Brown said in a statement, “and that the confidence and trust of Californians in our Parks Department will be restored.”

Jackson, 63, oversaw administration and finances of Marine facilities throughout the southwestern U.S. and worked with the federal and state governments on a variety of issues in his 36 years of military service.

Jackson was previously in charge of operations and logistics for the U.S. Africa Command, and deputy commander of Marine forces in the U.S. Central Command, which includes Afghanistan and Iraq. He also held several posts in San Diego County.

In his new post, he will oversee more than 280 parks that cover about 1.4 million acres, 15,000 campsites and 3,000 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails. Resources Secretary John Laird said Jackson’s Marine Corps experience will prove valuable in his new position.

“He has direct experience protecting cultural resources on sensitive U.S. government land, directing environmental scientists, and integrating military and civilian personnel,” Laird said.

The appointment to the $150,112-per-year post requires state Senate confirmation.

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