Coastal Commission appoints Charles Lester as new director

Breaking news

Posted by
Thu, September 8, 2011


The Coastsl Commission has appointed Charles Lester as its new Executive Director. The position was held for the past 26 years by Peter Douglas, who retired last month, reports the Chronicle.

Lester is the commission’s fourth executive director since it was created in 1972. He had served as senior deputy director since 2006 and was named acting director when Douglas, suffering from lung cancer, suddenly stepped down.

Lester, who has a bachelor’s degree in geochemistry from Columbia University, a Ph.D in jurisprudence and social policy from U.C. Berkeley, and a law degree from Boalt Hall School of Law, was an assistant professor of political science at the University of Colorado, in Boulder, before he was hired by the coastal commission in 1997.


Excellent choice.  For months I had been wondering and worrying about who was going to replace Peter but now that I know, it’s not a surprise at all.  In hindsight, Charles is the obvious choice.  I think the CCC will now continue on with no visible functional or operational change.

Peter will be missed and in some way it won’t feel the same without him.  Yet a well-built organization can survive any staff change, and I think that even with all the back-door attempts to eviscerate the Commission by cutting its budget to the bone, Peter still managed to have the Commission fulfill its mission, and it will continue to do so with Charles at the helm.  Welcome.

The Commission has made an excellent decision. Charles Lester has an impressive list of degrees. His tenure as Deputy has shown him to be something of a polymath regarding coastal issues. His remarkable ability to respond in depth to Commissioners’ questions regarding complicated local issues has been a hallmark. I don’t think a national search for a Director could possibly have come up with anyone who could hit the ground running the way that Mr. Lester can.

Comment 3
Sun, September 11, 2011 1:53pm
Barry Parr
All my comments

Interesting note about Lester’s role in building a comprise with Arcata over its LCP this year:

The dispute arose last month when—after about 13 years of holding public meetings and forming working groups—Arcata submitted its updated Local Coastal Program to the commission for approval. Commission staff returned the document to the city with hundreds of changes on issues including coastal and recreational access and wetlands and building siting. The changes Arcata agreed to address were sea level rise, tsunami hazards, storm water management, wetlands, public access and recreation and visual resources, Oetker said.

”We believe these are the main issues of statewide concern,” he said. “We believe we’ve come a long way, and we are in complete agreement with coastal commission staff that we’ve come a long way toward this compromise.”

Oetker said the compromise wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the coastal commission’s new executive director, Charles Lester. Lester visited Arcata and met with staff directly. He also went on a tour of Arcata’s coastal areas, Oetker said.