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Jay Banfield - From business to politics to parks

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Jay Banfield grew up without parks.

The executive director for the San Francisco Parks Trust grew up in Somerville, Mass., a dense Boston suburb. He played stickball in the street.

"That’s where I did my recreation. When you’re a kid, you’re reality is what your reality is. I never thought twice about it," he said. "In retrospect, I wish I had more [park] access."

He doesn’t lack for it now. Banfield has an office in the handsome, old McLaren Lodge at the gateway to Golden Gate Park, where hummingbirds buzz his window. He goes home at night to the Presidio, where his wife, child advocate Kate Banfield, is waiting with their three children.

His work involves oversight of the trust, an organization with a $1.5 million operating budget whose work ranges from renovating major landmarks such as the $25 million Conservatory of Flowers project to educational efforts, like a new environmental learning program held in the Bayview this past summer, from which graduated 21 middle school students.

"I spend a significant amount of time in parks," Banfield said. "They’re central to our community development and economic development."

Banfield is a devotee of public service. He worked as an organizer for the 1996 reelection campaign of former president William Clinton, and as chief assistant treasurer under former San Francisco treasurer Susan Leal.

But he learned his first financial and administrative lessons in the business world, working for five years for the computer giant Oracle Corp. (ORCL), first as a client relations analyst and later a salesman, and then a manager.

While there, he noted how Oracle gave a lot of responsibility to its workers, rewarding high performers with more resources to accomplish their goals.

"You learn about efficiencies and about the bottom-line orientation," he said of his private sector work. "I think that was an important thing that I brought to the treasurer’s office."

While working for Leal, he said he was proud of leading the e-government initiative to bring City Hall services online.

Presently, Banfield is celebrating the trust’s improved, four-star rating for fiscal health and accountability from Charity Navigator, an organization that rates nonprofit groups. Charity Navigator’s review showed the trust increased revenue growth from 2004 and 2002, while having greater fundraising efficiency and lower administrative expenses.

kwilliamson@examiner.com