New Sierra District parks chief takes helm |

New Sierra District parks chief takes helm

Susan Wood
Dan Thrift/Tahoe Daily Tribune/ Hayden Sohm is the new superintendent of the Sierra District of California State Parks.

As Hayden Sohm would tell it, working for California State Parks requires adapting to varying environments that took him from a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean to the high-Alpine shores of Lake Tahoe.

The Sierra District parks superintendent left the beach life and bundled up to come on board the Tahoe City-based office last August, and Mother Nature left out the welcome mat.

“I’m been doing a lot of shoveling, getting used to the Alpine life,” he said. “And I’m just a beach guy.”

He previously worked in the Malibu sector of the Angeles District, which encompasses an area from Point Mugu to the Malibu Pier. He managed the restoration of the Southern California pier from his office on a Malibu bluff.

“People would say to me: ‘What do you do up there?’ ” he said.

Now his job takes him to another scenic area, managing 224 seasonal employees for the district that covers a much wider area – south to Mono Lake, north to Plumas-Eureka State Park, east to the Nevada border and west to Grass Valley. He replaced John Knott, who retired.

Sohm moved his wife, Joni, and their two dogs to the lake. Unfortunately, one of their whippets had what appeared to be a stroke a month after they settled in. A sheriff’s deputy tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the dog to no avail, he said.

Sohm, 55, became employed by the parks service 30 years ago when fellow construction workers talked him out of hammering nails to retirement. The idea of getting a pension made the career change more attractive. And he could keep up his tan.

He also worked in Monterey and Big Sur before moving on to Malibu then Lake Tahoe.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity,” he said.

Sohm admits the move wasn’t on his radar screen, but he was asked.

“And I heard the staff here is regarded as some of the best,” he said.

On the agenda, he’ll oversee work on the Donner Museum, Burton Creek general plan and Empire Mine cleanup at Grass Valley.

“One of my biggest issues – No. 1 as a manager – is trying to stay within budget and maintain the level of service,” he said.

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