Gov. Doug Burgum today announced the resignation of North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department (NDPRD) Director Melissa Baker, thanking her for her leadership in promoting outdoor recreation and improving the accessibility of North Dakota’s state parks.
“North Dakota is blessed with outstanding natural resources, and Melissa’s visionary leadership and strategic planning has helped improve the citizen experience when visiting any one of our 15 state parks and recreation areas,” Burgum said. “On behalf of Lt. Gov. Sanford and our entire administration, we’re tremendously grateful for Melissa’s service and wish her all the best in her next role.”
Burgum appointed Baker as NDPRD director effective April 24, 2017. Prior to joining the governor’s cabinet, she served as chief of operations in the Montana State Parks system. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as regional team supervisor of operations and visitor services at Northern Highland American Legion State Forest. She also was a professor of forest recreation in the College of Natural Resources at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and taught parks recreation and tourism at the University of Maine.
Baker’s last day as NDPRD director will be Jan. 17, 2020. She will assume her new role as director of Virginia State Parks in late January, an opportunity that will allow her and her husband to be closer to their children and grandchildren.
“I will always be grateful to have worked with the outstanding staff at NDPRD and as part of Team North Dakota,” Baker said. “I have great confidence in the future of the Parks and Recreation Department as they continue to provide exceptional visitor experiences and support to local communities.”
During her time as director, Baker led the launch of a new reservation system for the parks system, allowing for online booking of the state’s lodging and campsites. As part of Burgum’s Main Street Initiative, Baker also worked with her team to identify strategic partnerships and build relationships in communities adjacent to state parks to better integrate outdoor recreation into local economic development.