Section Representative Candidate Manuel Gonzalez

Manuel Gonzalez
Manuel Gonzalez
Parks & Recreation Manager
City of El Cajon
Connect with Manny

Why have you chosen to run for the CPRS State Board of Directors?
As a graduate of Princeton University with more than 26 years of experience in Parks and Recreation, I have the background to add value to the CPRS Board. I spent the first 18 years of my career in aquatics, and soon recognized that my agency’s success was intrinsically tied to regional aquatic success. I served six terms as President of the San Diego County Aquatic Council and helped to shape our collective role in drowning prevention. We started valuable and impactful initiatives and developed strong partnerships, including helping to host national and international conferences. I am confident that it was my commitment to the collective education and betterment of our industry that motivated Aquatics International to recognize me as a member of the Power 25. I have spent the last eight years applying the same approach as I shifted to oversight of park maintenance and recreation programming. I try to be at the forefront of major issues that impact our industry, and I am someone that agitates the status quo.

What personal attributes, skills, or knowledge would you bring to the State Board of Directors if elected?
I believe that CPRS can help be a conduit to achieving sustainable communities, parks, and organizations. Sustainable communities means that we must facilitate the engagement of health and wellness in our park systems. Sustainable parks requires that we create a framework for the reinvestment in our park assets, including adapting to changing access to natural resources. To achieve sustainable organizations, we must develop plans to create succession planning and position the Parks and Recreation industry for the future. I believe that I can help support the sections as they guide organizations in best meeting the needs of their specific communities of interest. I have always been inclined to leverage our collective resources and talents to further our industry. I think this sense of collectivity is valuable to my growth and my ability to best serve constituents in my community. I am hoping to be inspired and to inspire my colleagues.

What is the greatest challenge our profession faces and how will you lead to address that challenge?
One of the most significant challenges we will face in the immediate future is how we address wage compaction and succession planning when wages in the public sector are increasingly less competitive. We will continue to struggle to attract entry level hourly staff as long as we are competing with other service industries that have more nimble hiring processes, provide increasingly attractive incentives (benefits, education, etc.), and do not require pre-employment training and certifications. I think our industry needs to work collectively to frame our entry level positions as more than just a job. For some, Parks and Recreation will be a steppingstone to something else, and that is ok as long as we also cause some to fall in love and make careers of Parks and Recreation. I started in the industry to pay for school and to take a year off before law school, so I am acutely capable of selling what has kept me.
We also need to strategically place ourselves at the forefront to solutions in climate change and do not just become a dumping ground for more trees without proper strategic thought or investment. For some of us that are built out, the challenge will be about redefining our conceptions of what a park is. This will be particularly acute as we address issues of social equity.