REGION — The San Diego Botanic Garden’s longtime director of development has been tapped to helm one of the region’s most well-known water watchdog groups.
The San Diego Coastkeeper announced Tuesday that it hired Tracie Barham to serve as executive director. She succeeds Megan Baehrens, who left the organization in October 2015.
The Coastkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters in San Diego County.
“Tracie’s career is centered on strategic leadership and organizational development in areas of social and environmental issues,” said Elizabeth Taylor, president of San Diego Coastkeeper’s board of directors. “We know the organization’s positive impact on San Diego County’s water challenges will expand even further under her leadership.”
Barham had served nine years in her position with the Encinitas-based botanic garden. According to a news release, Barham significantly increased overall operating and capital income to fund the launch of several expansion projects, including the recently approved Dickinson Family Education Conservatory, a proposed 7,400-square-foot education and events pavilion adjacent to the park’s Hamilton Children’s Garden.
She also spearheaded the fundraising efforts for several other projects, including the restoration of the historical Larabee House, the conversion of the Lawn House from a maintenance storage area into a visitors center and library, and the creation of an administrative and maintenance building.
Julian Duval, the president and CEO of the garden, described Barham’s departure as bittersweet.
“I am happy for Tracie. During her nine years we can say that the garden has grown substantially and there is definitely an upward trend on everything we have been able to set our sights on, but no one wants an employee of her caliber to leave,” said Duval, who added he learned of her selection several weeks ago. “I was surprised then, but in retrospect I knew the quality of person she was. Coastkeeper is lucky to have her.”
Barham’s departure marks the second executive to leave the garden in recent months. Longtime operations manager Pat Hammer recently retired. The garden has hired her replacement, Duval said.
Duval said the garden has received more than 50 applicants for Barham’s position and has narrowed the list to 10 candidates, which they started interviewing for by phone on April 13. Following the phone interviews, Duval said the list will be narrowed to three finalists.
Duval said the quality of the applicant pool is even stronger than when Barham applied, a testament to how Barham has grown the job.
“We are very fortunate to attract very talented people such as Tracie and Pat, and given the fine work they have done, we have been able to attract probably stronger candidates than when they were both hired,” Duval said.
In her new post, Barham leads Coastkeeper’s efforts to achieve the goals set out in its 2015-18 strategic plan, which include lowering the county’s household water use by 25 percent and training 300 new volunteer scientists to monitor the health of the region’s watersheds.
Travis Pritchard, who served as interim executive director, returns to his role as program director.