New Assistant CEO to Join County in January

Renée Bahl Caught Etching Her Name onto Historic Structure in 2001

Renée Bahl, currently executive director of the Arizona State Parks Board, will join Santa Barbara County in January as a new Assistant CEO.

Bahl worked for several years under CEO Chandra Wallar when they both were in San Diego County. “I am pleased and excited to have Renée join the County’s leadership team,” Wallar said in a statement. “She is known as an excellent leader who possesses a strong business and financial acumen, and is well-respected for her highly successful communication skills as well as proven results-oriented track.”

Renee Bahl
Click to enlarge photo

Renee Bahl

While she does appear to have solid administrative credentials, Bahl — who will step in to fill the position of Jason Stilwell after he left to become the city administrator in Carmel — got into trouble in 2001 when she was caught etching her name into the wall of a historic adobe barn in Arizona. At the time, she was in charge of overseeing historic preservation at the ranch. According to news reports, another employee caught her, and a photo of the scratches was sent to the entire state legislature. She was disciplined for the act before leaving in 2002 for San Diego County.

Wallar said she was aware of the incident during her time in San Diego and that Bahl had self-disclosed it during the interview process there. “It’s an issue that had occurred many, many years ago,” Wallar explained.

Bahl spent roughly seven years in San Diego before heading back to Arizona for her current job as executive director of the Arizona State Parks Board. She is also on the board of the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration and has been a member of the California Association of Regional and Open Space Administrators, the National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials, and the National Association of State Outdoor Recreation Liaison Officers.

When she begins with Santa Barbara County, Bahl will oversee six departments: agricultural commissioner, community services, general services, planning and development, public defender, and public works. Bahl joins Terri Nisich as the other assistant CEO to Wallar, a downshift from several years ago when then-CEO Mike Brown had, at times, up to five assistant CEOs under him.

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

event calendar sponsored by:

Both Sides Draw Blood in Dario Pini Trial

The courtroom drama opened with questions about who should have control over how many properties.

Pair of F-22s Buzz Santa Barbara City College

Turbulence rattles windows and nerves on Monday morning.

Mandatory Evacuation Called for Fire Zones in Santa Barbara County

Heavy rains expected Tuesday-Thursday; debris flows feared.

Cannabis Farmer Gets Over $1 Million Insurance Payout

Thomas Fire ash destroys crop; analysis finds asbestos, lead, arsenic, and magnesium.

Next Debris Flow Could Take Different, Unknown Path

"I've never seen this degree of hazard," says Cal Fire scientist.