Larchmont Living's Monthly Spotlight on Local Businesses and Residents
Q&A With Carolyn Ramsay, Executive Director
LA Parks Foundation
Longtime Windsor Square resident Carolyn Ramsay spent the first half of her career as a journalist, and for the last two decades has been intricately involved in the City of Los Angeles, both in public and private sectors. Today she's still involved with the city and helping to keep it green, with her work with the LA Parks Foundation.
- After working for the City of Los Angeles for many years in several capacities, you're now the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Parks Foundation; tell us about the work you are doing there?
The Los Angeles Parks Foundation was established in 2008 to enhance, expand, preserve and promote parks and open spaces for the diverse people of Los Angeles. Since then, the organization has raised more than $42 million for direct improvements to Los Angeles city parks. I run the organization, working with donors and our partners at the cityDepartment of Recreation and Parks to fund, get approvals for and manage the installation of a wide variety of park projects – from artificial turf soccer fields and play structures to mini forests to fight climate change. I am very lucky towork with our impressive board of directors, professional staff, generous donors and partners at the city.
- While not technically still working for the City, this work obviously impacts the City of Los Angeles significantly; what attracted you to this role and organization?
I became an environmentalist as an undergrad at the University of Oregon, where I got a degree in Sociology and Journalism. My husband Andy Goodman and I moved to Los Angeles in 1991, and I felt immediately that we needed more trees. When my children Dan and Olivia were young, I raised private dollars to match a city grant for the Larchmont Median and I was hooked. Tom LaBonge offered me a job on his staff and I was able to continue working on park improvements as a Field Deputy and then as his Chief of Staff. When Judith Kieffer and Barry Sanders founded the LA Parks Foundation in 2008, they helped us with several projects and Judith and I became friends. When she decided to retire, she recommended I apply for the job.
- Speaking of parks, last year we lost longtime City Councilman, Angeleno and true friend of the parks, Tom LaBonge. You worked with Tom for many years, talk about the impact he had on you and the City. I suspect he's smiling watching the work you're now doing.
Tom hiked in Griffith Park every morning in the 30 years that I knew him. He picked up trash along the way, greeted every hiker on the trail and alerted rangers to any broken tree limb or tripping hazzard he saw along the way. He was a unifier and connector who demonstrated his love of Los Angeles by DOING. I always thought he was a true LA original - until I met his seven brothers, who had very similar voices and personalities :-). Regardless, every time I pick up a piece of trash on the street, I think of Tom. Every time I show up for a small community event to honor a volunteer, I think of Tom. I’m very lucky to remain close to his wife Brigid and children Mary-Cate and Charles. They’re keeping his spirit alive every day.
- When you look at how the City has changed over the years, do you think back to what might have been had you won the election in 2015 to represent then District 4 on the City Council?
I honestly don’t think about it in that way. The political environment changed in the next couple of years and I feel lucky to do the work I’m doing instead. Planting trees and improving parks is what I really wanted to do from the start anyway.
- You've lived in Windsor Square for many years; talk about why you love this neighborhood.
What’s not to love? It’s a beautiful neighborhood with genuinely lovely people living in it.