SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Mary Tullius is the first woman to head the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation and one of only six state parks chiefs in the country.
The distinction is important to her, Tullius said Monday. "Being the first woman as director of state parks creates an opportunity for me to serve as a role model for other women -- just to show that woman can do it."
The appointment was made after the close of business Monday by Mike Styler, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources.
Tullius has been acting director since Cortland Nelson left the position in January 2004 to take over management of Minnesota state parks.
Tullius will oversee 280 full-time employees and 220 seasonal workers at 42 state parks. She headed a task force that recently drafted a five-year strategic plan to improve park services, operate efficiently on sometimes shaky funding, retain veteran employees and make certain every park has a resource management plan.
Utah's state parks abolished 32 positions, turned over three parks to other organizations and took $1.8 million in budget cuts since 2000, when a downturn in the economy left the state with a series of deficits.
The Legislature in March, however, restored $729,000 in operating funding for the fiscal year starting July 1, and gave the division another $2 million to chip away at a $68 million backlog in capital funding for renovations.
"The Legislature took good care of us," Tullius said. "Now we're trying to get back to basic and look for further efficiencies."
Tullius had been deputy state parks director from 1997 to 2004. Before that, she was the division's public affairs coordinator for a decade.
In a state with five national parks and plentiful open land, Utah's state parks sometimes get overlooked. Tullius hopes to change that with a "branding" campaign that can work with a huge increase for tourism promotion the Legislature approved this year: $18 million over two years. The state has yet to shape a marketing plan for that money.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)