By Ohio law, Five Rivers MetroParks is governed by a three-member volunteer board of park commissioners who are appointed by the probate judge of Montgomery County.
The board establishes all rules and regulations, approves developments and land acquisition and controls all funds.
Each commissioner serves without pay for a three-year term, with one member’s term expiring each year. Commissioners can be reappointed for successive terms. Board meetings are held monthly and are open to the public.
Chief Executive Officer
Karen L. Hesser
The board of commissioners appoints a chief executive officer to carry out MetroParks policies and manage operations. The CEO oversees a diverse workforce of nearly 300 employees. These include specialists such as park rangers, educational interpreters, naturalists, planners, horticulturalists and maintenance staff. In addition to being the CEO, she is also is the board secretary.
Karen Hesser has served as the CEO of Five Rivers MetroParks since 2023. The Park District services approximately 530,000 residents and protects and maintains over 16,000 acres of park land. Karen has years of experience in the parks and recreation industry, including leadership roles at Arizona’s Glendale Parks, Recreation and Library Services, as well as with Pennsylvania’s Chester County Parks and Recreation. She served as Five Rivers MetroParks director of park services and legislative affairs for four years before being promoted to chief of operations in 2016.
Aside from her work at MetroParks, Karen serves on the Boy Scouts of America Miami Valley Council’s executive committee, Miami Valley Regional Disaster Recovery for Jurisdictions committee, and the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery’s community outreach committee. She is a certified park and recreation professional and active in the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), serves on the NRPA Maintenance Management School faculty, and is a member of the prestigious American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration, a national organization that recognizes leadership and professional contributions to the field.
Karen L. Davis
Karen Davis was appointed to the Board of Park Commissioners in 1996. She is a health care professional, community volunteer and family advocate. Karen is originally from Louisville Kentucky but has been in the Dayton area for over 29 years.
Karen has worked in various health care positions with a concentration on financial performance, operations management, leadership development, and quality. She works for PriMED Physicians as executive director and MediSync, Inc., as director of client success, responsible for business development/recruiting and software applications training for chronic disease management.
In addition to balancing work and family activities, Karen finds time to devote to her community. She has served on several community-based boards, including Buckeye Trails Girl Scouts, Montgomery County Children’s Services, Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley, and for 10 years emceed the Cardinal Bernadin Community Service Award Banquet, honoring individuals for outstanding community service.
Karen enjoys teaching and has served as an adjunct faculty member for Ivy Tech Community College and Xavier University.
She continues to serve on the park district board today.
Jessica Salem is the Executive Director of the Center for Health Equity at Dayton Children’s Hospital. She has worked at Dayton Children’s since 2007 and is responsible for their community outreach and population health programming. Jessica has developed and directed a number of programs including the Kohl’s A Minute for Kids program, the Neighborhood Centers School Program at Kiser School, Safe Kids Greater Dayton and the Mead Westvaco Family Resource Center. She is also the project manager for the Dayton Children’s Regional Pediatric Health Assessment.
Jessica was named a 40 Under 40 by Dayton Business Journal in 2012 and in 2021, she was named the Dayton Chamber of Commerce’s 2021 Volunteer of the Year and one of WiBN’s Top 25 Women of Impact from the Better Business Bureau. She serves as adjunct faculty at Wright State University and the University of Dayton. She is a past president of the Junior League of Dayton and currently serves on multiple boards including the Board of Governors for Leadership Dayton.
Commissioner At Large
Bear Monita is a partner of LWC Incorporated (formerly Lorenz + Williams), the Dayton area’s oldest architectural, interior design and planning firm. He has been with the firm for 24 years and is responsible for leading marketing, business development and client relations initiatives.
Bear has assisted Dayton Public Schools, the City of Kettering, Huber Heights City Schools, Dayton Metro Library and Wayne Local Schools in the successful passage of bond issue measures to construct new facilities totaling $1 billion.
Prior to joining LWC, he was the district director for U.S. Congressman Tony Hall and the government affairs manager of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.
Bear serves on the boards of the following organizations: Five Rivers MetroParks, Kettering Medical Center Foundation, and Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges. He is a former board member and chair of the Dayton Art Institute and Sinclair Foundation.