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Portland parks director retires

National search for replacement to be conducted

Longtime Portland Parks and Recreation Director Zari Santner announced her retirement Tuesday.

Parks Commissioner Nick Fish will conduct a national search for her replacement.

'Portland Parks and Recreation and the people of Portland have benefited enormously from Zari Santner's vision, leadership and dedication,' Fish said. 'From her commitment to quality design, to her efforts to fully integrate recreation programs into other areas of the organization, from diversifying the funding base for parks, to protecting and managing our natural areas, she will be leaving a rich legacy for future generations of Oregonians.'

Santner worked nearly 30 years at the bureau, the last eight as its director. She worked on many projects, including in both the urban and rural parts of the city.

'I take pride in having played a critical role, early in my career, to open Powell Butte Nature Park for public use,' Santner said. 'In doing so, we also protected its natural resource values while offering the outer east residents access to nature in their community. The Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade was a 16-year labor of love which, once completed, was enthusiastically embraced by the public.'

Santner was appointed the first female parks director in 2003. Recent awards include the Governor's Livability Award for Jamison Square and the American Society of Landscape Architecture Award for South Waterfront Park and the Eastbank Esplanade.

Other major projects Santner worked on at the bureau include: the Southwest Community Center, Tanner Springs Park, Director Park, Caruthers Park, Holly Farm Park, and the East Portland Community Center Pool.

Zari Santner was born in Iran, where she lived for the first 21 years of her life. She graduated from Tehran University with a BS in Horticulture and earned her Masters in Landscape Architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design. She moved to Oregon in 1980, where she began her work in the bureau's Planning and Development Department.