Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version Share this


By Jonathan Goetz

Photos credited to Mary Ann Prall

August 27, 2017 (El Cajon) - Sarah Ramirez, Director of the El Cajon Recreation Department, retired earlier this month. She started with the department as an intern in 1980 and over her career, led efforts to transform recreational opportunities for residents and oversee major public events to “rebrand” El Cajon and revitalize downtown, according to a proclamation issued by the Mayor.

She was honored at this month’s El Cajon City Council Meeting, and as is her style, she shared credit with her staff and her family for what she called her “incredible journey.”

The new Director of Recreation in El Cajon is Frank Carson. According to his LinkedIn Profile, he has experience with 25 years in Parks & Recreation, with 20 years serving in a supervisory capacity, and is bilingual in English and Spanish. He worked as a Recreation Supervisor for the City of Chula Vista from 2003-2013 and as a Recreation Manager for the City of El Cajon since 2013.

The full text of the commendation for Ramirez and her speech is below:


WHEREAS, Sara Ramirez has been “developing youth, supporting families and providing safe places” for East County for over 35 years. Sara started with the El Cajon Recreation Department as an intern in 1980 and worked her way through the ranks, ultimately taking the helm as Director in 2011. Sara received two professional awards from the California Park & Recreation Society for her contributions in the Recreation field.  During her tenure, Sara expertly directed and operated the Department’s outstanding facilities and programming, including five full service recreation centers, one banquet facility, nine ball fields, a skate park, a dog park, a swimming pool and over 100 part-time employees. Through the years, Recreation facilitated the Commission on Aging and Disabilities, the Recreation Council, the Teen Coalition, the Veterans Commission and the Parks & Recreation Commission; and

WHEREAS, Sara has been instrumental in establishing cooperative agreements with Cajon Valley Union School District, the Boys & Girls Club at Wells Park, the Downtown El Cajon Business Partners, CASA, the El Cajon Police Department and other groups to offer quality facilities, programming and events for the benefit of the entire community.  She started a pilot program called “Neighbors to Neighbors” bringing community leaders together to create healthy neighborhoods.  She developed a transition plan for the Wells Senior Center, inclusionary programs for users of all abilities and assisted in a Strategic Marketing plan for promoting the Department.  Sara participated in renovation projects at Renette, Hillside and the Ronald Reagan Community Centers, as well as improvements at Fletcher Hills Pool, providing her input and expertise in the development plans for these facilities; and

WHEREAS, in addition to overseeing a department that is constantly evolving, Sara and her staff produced major events rebranding the City of El Cajon and returning a vibrancy to the downtown area.  Many will recognize these popular community-wide events, including the ALL FORE R.E.C. Golf Tournament, America on Main Street, our longstanding 4th of July picnic and fireworks, Hauntfest and the St. Patrick’s Day Half Marathon. Sara and her staff, gaining valuable experience from the International Friendship Festival, coordinated the City’s monumental Centennial Celebration, a yearlong observance of the City’s 100-year anniversary.  These are in addition to the ongoing Recreation programs for people of all ages.  Sara’s first involvement with the El Cajon Recreation Department was in 1966 performing at the Del Mar Fair as a “Buttercup” Ballerina.  As a lifelong resident of El Cajon, Sara has devoted her career to ensuring the community has opportunities to participate in the best recreation programs and facilities in all of San Diego County.  El Cajon is very fortunate to have been the recipient of her dedication and hard work.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Bill Wells, Mayor for the City of El Cajon, together with the City Council, do hereby commend and congratulate Director of Recreation Sara Ramirez on a very successful career with the City of El Cajon.  We wish Sara and her family good health and much happiness in her retirement years.

Signed this eighth day of August, two thousand and seventeen.


Wow!  What a proclamation!

This has been an incredible journey.  I am so fortunate to have been able to serve the City of El Cajon, my home town, for 35 years.

During all these years, you, City Council, has shown endless support and leadership for the Recreation Department, through the good times and the challenging ones.  Thank you so much.

Under the tremendous guidance of our City Manager, Douglas Williford, these past 5 years have provided so many opportunities for this department and myself.  Thank you for letting us be part of your vision.  Doug, you’re awesome.

My job has been made easier because of the staff I have had the pleasure to work with.

Beginning with the Executive Team: You are all so professional and supportive, and are always there to guide and send me on the right path.

City Hall and Field Staff: Thank you for being part of the citywide teams with special events, facility renovations and staff recognition.  Your integrity for these projects has been truly valued. 

And of course, my Rock Stars, the Recreation Department: You are all wonderful.  You have provided so many events and activities with superb levels of customer service for our citizens.  This team works hard, is always there, and is irreplaceable.

Personally, I want to thank my family.

Beginning with my mother, Elizabeth Smith. Who knew Mom that putting me in ballet classes at the age of 6, under protest, would lead me to a career in Recreation and ultimately as the Director of Recreation?  Thanks Mom!

My brothers and sisters in law, niece and grandniece that are here today, thank you for traveling so far to support me.  You’re awesome!

My husband, Steven Ramirez. This City got 2 for 1 with all of the guidance and support I receive from you each day.  You made such a difference, I learned how to be a business woman from you, and the city has benefitted from your expertise. Thank you my dear.

My boys, Joseph and Daniel.  They grew up in this department. 

Nothing like having my own focus group at home since you participated in sports, camps and classes and you always came home with feedback.  Good and bad.

Then you grew up and volunteered at our special events and playground builds, and you always worked so hard.  Thanks boys.

I cannot forget to thank the community partners of El Cajon. Downtown El Cajon Business Partners, C.A.S.A., Cajon Valley Union School District, Crisis House, St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center, El Cajon Collaborative, East County Chamber of Commerce and Waste Management

You have always been there and are so amazing.  You create community with us.

I don’t know if you know this, but, my staff all know me well.  I would always worry at every event, if anyone would show up.  Be it America on Main Street, International Friendship Festival, HauntFest, KaBOOM! Playground Build, Veteran’s Day Celebration, Dance Recital, or the 4th of July Picnic, I was concerned each time and people always came out and played with us.  20 – 40,000 of you!  I would like to give you all a round of applause for always coming through.  I appreciate your enthusiasm and participation.

Lastly, in life, have fun, stay safe, and always make friends.

Error message

Support community news in the public interest! As nonprofit news, we rely on donations from the public to fund our reporting -- not special interests. Please donate to sustain East County Magazine's local reporting and/or wildfire alerts at to help us keep people safe and informed across our region.