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Belinda V. Jackson Set High Standards at City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks (RAP)

Belinda V. Jackson being presented with plaque during retirement celebration at L. A. City Hall.

By Gloria Zuurveen, Editor-in-Chief

Belinda V. Jackson, a native of Springfield, Massachusetts, may not have been born in Los Angeles but from the looks of her credentials, Los Angeles has been her birthplace in helping to fulfill dreams for millions who have passed her way. For 23 years she has graced the stage at the City of L.A. at the Department of Recreation and Parks (RAP). Under her leadership, Jackson has left an indelible mark which is very much distinguishable and especially when it comes to serving the public.

In July of 2022, Jackson was promoted to RAP’s Assistant General Manager (AGM) of the Recreation Services Branch position and in that capacity she was overseer of over 500 parks and over 123 recreational centers throughout the city in addition she supervised 450 full time and 5, 000 part time employees who provided programming spanning over the department’s five regions, and ensured facilities, programs, and community relations operated to the highest caliber. This appointment was reported to be intentional as it aligned with  RAP’s implementation of the PlayLA Program which was awarded a $160 million grant by LA28 (the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games Foundation), one of the nation’s largest grant to support youth sports with the specific aim to increase community impact with the implementation of one of RAP’s signature youth and adaptive youth sports program which offers youth aged 3-17 an opportunity to participate in low or no cost quality sports programming in their neighborhood.

Ninth District City Councilman Curren D. Price, Jr. acknowledged her outstanding record of leadership during her retirement ceremony held at Los Angeles City Hall on Tuesday. With staff and other city officials in attendance, Jackson was praised for her extraordinary accomplishments as she provided over 23 years at RAP and 22 years as the Executive Director of EXPO Center since 2001. In that capacity she served as the project manager where she was instrumental in spearheading, with seamless execution, the  completion of the $45 million EXPO Center capital project allowing the center to open to the public in 2004. With motivation and her professional designations and with a world-renown California education, Jackson received her Bachelor of Science in Sociology from California State University, Los Angeles, a certificate in grant writing and non-profit management from the University of California, Los Angeles as well as an Executive Management certification for CEO’s of nonprofit organizations for Deloitte & Touche. Jackson used her credentials to expand her territory as she moved to higher grounds where she operated the EXPO Center which is RAP’s largest family recreational complex and the largest in the state of California. It is known for its unparalleled year-around recreational, educational and cultural programs with over one million visits annually.

Belinda V. Jackson and staff members from the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks (RAP)

At the EXPO Center, Jackson managed an operations budget of $40 million dollars with a staff of 225 employees. The EXPO Center complex consists of a state-of-the-art, three-story recreation center, the historic John C. Argue Swim Stadium, computer labs, the licensed Ralph M. Parsons Preschool, the Keck Amphitheater, Soboroff Sports Field, the Ahmanson Senior Center and the Exposition Park Rose Garden, Jackson manage all of them.

Steve Soboroff bows to convince Belinda Jackson to stay and not retire in 2019 during even given by the Friends of EXPO Center honoring the two of them for outstanding service to the community. Photo by Gloria Zuurveen

The City of Los Angeles is better off since Jackson crossed its path. She has beaten a pathway for others to follow in her footsteps to ensure that the EXPO Center continue to survive and thrive under the new leadership as Jackson is leaving some very big shoes to fill.

Having had the opportunity to work with Jackson, I can attest that her work ethics are second to none. She is a no-nonsense person and she gets the job done and she does it with class so that everyone can have lots of fun. For instance during the holidays when snow was in the mountains, Jackson didn’t  play around on the ground with fake snow. She would have the trucks bring in real snow so that inner city youth could experience it right in their own neighborhood. She demonstrated that she cared and it showed by her action. Her staff was always on hand to help whether it was to sign up for swimming lessons or to rent one of the facilities to hold an event it didn’t matter because at the EXPO Center they were efficient and they made your time with them well spent.

Inside or outside, at the EXPO Center, the community could smile with pride, even the homeless. Jackson was commissioned to revitalize RAP’s two Skid Row parks by leveraging community stakeholders and partners to increase program and job opportunities and in 2020, Jackson and RAP were recognized by the California Parks and Recreation Society with the Awards of Excellence for the Social Equity Revitalization of Skid Row. Jackson is leaving some very big shoes to fill and she has the records to boast. She raised over $25 million for capital projects and programs. Jackson prides her in developing partnership with the Los Angeles Philharmonic to develop the first Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA). Jackson may have been born in Massachusetts but her growth and development are all on display as she leaves a lasting legacy in the City of L. A. at the Department of Recreation of Parks (RAP).  Jackson spearheaded the Learn to Swim Program  that garnered a grant from the LA84 Foundation which provided 42 LAUSD schools with over 65,000 swim lessons and it continues to this day.

In closing Councilmember Price said, “We especially thank her for her dedication to her work and strong ability to initiate true action through her partnership with Department staff, elected officials, commissioners, and community stakeholders. Jackson’s impact will be felt throughout the City of Los Angeles for many years to come. Jackson looks forward to spending quality time with her daughter, and continuing her work as a community activist as well as non-profit consulting. The City Council of the City of Los Angeles congratulate  and expresses their appreciation to Belinda Jackson for her dedicated service to the City of Los Angeles and the citizens of Los Angeles, and wishes her continued happiness and success.”

Belinda Jackson, her mother and her sister, Christine Hill along with Councilmember Curren D. Price and Steve Soboroff. Photo by Gloria Zuurveen

Front of the EXPO Center. Photo by Gloria Zuurveen

Belinda Jackson and members of the Regalettes along with Councilmember Curren D. Price at the EXPO Center during the Winter Festival. Photo by Gloria Zuurveen

 

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