Recognized as a leader in her field, Fran P. Mainella attributes her ongoing success to the three C’s: courage, connections, and communications. She has spent more than four decades as a certified parks and recreation professional, steadily working her way up the chain. She jumped at every opportunity she came across and, over the years, built a vast network of colleagues and peers. Ms. Mainella’s journey culminated with her appointment as the 16th director of the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2001. She was the first woman to hold this position, and was nominated by then-President Bush. Previous employers include the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Recreation and Park Association, the Tallahassee Parks and Recreation Department, and the Town of Lake Park, Fla.
Now, Ms. Mainella is using her background to help others in the industry. She has been the president of Fran Mainella Consulting, LLC, since 2014, and a visiting scholar at Clemson University since 2006. She also lends her voice to presentations at venues like the upcoming League of Women in Government Annual Symposium. She is currently a board member for The Children in Nature Network and for Guest Services Inc. She also serves as the vice-chair of the South Florida National Park Trust, a philanthropic arm for the South Florida National Parks. In 2015, she presented the Pugsley Award to Senator Lamar Alexander, and in 2014, she spoke at the Massachusetts Park and Recreation Association’s Annual Conference. Additionally, she was the keynote speaker at the 16th Water Conservation and Xeriscape National Conference, the Designing Natural Play Areas Conference, the Tennessee Parks and Recreation Conference, the Indiana Park and Recreation Conference, the Great Lakes Park Training Institute, the Women as Leaders Certificate Program, and the Nebraska Park and Recreation Conference, among others.
Another way Ms. Mainella shares her experiences is through writing. She authored the introductions to “Ten Best of Everything: National Parks” and “An Introduction to Park Management” in 2011, and “We’ve Got to Get Our Kids Outdoors More” for Newsweek, LLC, in 2007, among others. She also contributed regularly to publications like Perspectives, Arrowhead, The Nature Principle, and InsideNPS.gov. Recently, she was published in the Travel Behavior & Society Research Publication and as the co-author of the article “Transportation Mode Choice Among Baby Boomer Visitors in National Parks: Exploring the Concept of Freedom.
As a testament to her achievements, Ms. Mainella was honored with the Outstanding Alumni of the Year Award by the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut in 2011, the Award for Faculty Excellence from Clemson University from 2007 to 2010, the Pugsley Medal for Outstanding Leadership from the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration in 2007, and the William Penn Mott Jr. Award for Excellence from the National Society for Park Resources in 2006. Other notable accolades include the Distinguished Service Award from the Division of Recreation and Parks at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Walter T. Cox Award for Sustained Achievement in Public Service from the George B. Hartzog, Jr. Environmental Awards Program at Clemson University, the Sheldon Coleman Outdoors Award from the American Recreation Coalition, the Senator Bob Williams Award Recognizing Work in Historic Preservation from the state of Florida, and the 2017 Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award from Marquis Who’s Who. She also had a biennial award named after her by the George B. Hartzog Jr. Environmental Awards Program.
In her spare time, Ms. Mainella enjoys golf and hiking.