When Cal Camara became the general manager of Hesperia Recreation and Park District, the agency had only three park facilities. When he leaves this June, 25 years later, it will have 18.


"I was brought down here and asked to stay at least two years," Camara said from his office at Lime Street Park.


He had previously worked for the city of Santa Maria in Santa Barbara County. Camara was hired to create a master plan and financial plan for the district, which he did on a monochrome Macintosh computer he bought for the district at a fraction of the cost for the consultants he had been advised to hire.


"Family and community, when it came right down to it, were the reasons I wanted to stay." Camara ended up raising two children in Hesperia and watching the district grow up around him.


"I've been in the field 40 years. That's the harder part to grasp" than his working 25 years in Hesperia.


He's choosing to step down now for three reasons, he said.


Camara's wife has multiple sclerosis and lives in Washington part of the year to beat the High Desert heat, which is especially hard on her in her condition. Retiring from the district will allow him to spend more time with her.


The recession is also an ideal time for a transition, he said.


"Because of the economic slowdown, I'm able to leave at a time when someone's going to step in when things aren't able to go too fast," Camara said. And the slow pace of district affairs during the recession means that the district won't need to fill the position of his successor, Administrative Operations Manager Lindsay Woods.


And finally, he has been in the position for since Ronald Reagan was president.


"I think I want to do something different," he said. "Possibly teach college, possibly manage another agency. ... There's a shortage in government of non-bureaucratic managers. There's a demand out there for managers with experience managing budgets and personnel."


Camara is proud of the district's financial prudence during his tenure.


"The board members have always been very conscious that they work for the community," he said. "Even if I don't always agree with them, I know they're doing it for the right reasons."


In contrast to other local districts, Hesperia Recreation and Park has only 16 permanent employees, with temporary employees filling out the rest of the staff.


The park district has also saved the city of Hesperia up to $250,000 in expenses by operating the Hesperia Golf and Country Club, he said.


"We are actually operating in the black. We're not making a lot of improvements, but we are not costing the taxpayers."


Of course, there are more projects that Camara would have liked to complete before leaving. The list includes adding a football stadium to Hesperia Community Park, the soccer complex at Maple Park, moving the Val Shearer Equestrian Center to Hesperia Lake Park, a skate park plaza, a BMX program and a new gymnasium at Lime Street Park.


"I'm going to come back for those" grand openings, he said. "Those will be nice to see."


But he'll miss what he said kept him here so long.


"This community is definitely what made me stay," Camara said. "They're great people."


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.