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California Coastal Commission appoints new executive

September 8, 2011 |  7:54 pm

Charles Lester Coastal Commission The California Coastal Commission has chosen a new leader from its own ranks.

The panel voted unanimously Thursday to appoint Charles Lester, the commission's senior deputy director, to the top post.

As executive director of the influential state agency, Lester, 49, will be the regulator-in-chief of California's 1,100-mile coastline. The 12-member panel is responsible for implementing the the nation's strongest coastal protection law, the 1976 state Coastal Act, which gives it broad authority over development and public access along the shoreline.

Lester's predecessor, Peter Douglas, who has been fighting lung cancer, announced his retirement last month after 26 years as executive director. Douglas endorsed Lester as his successor and cautioned the panel against selecting an outsider who would be less hard-nosed about protecting the coast from harmful development.

Calling himself a "problem-solver," Lester said: "I look forward to bringing people together around environmentally sustainable solutions that protect coastal resources and provide maximum public access to the coast for all Californians.”

Mary Shallenberger, the chairwoman of the commission, said Lester brings "unwavering integrity and clear vision" to the position. "While Peter Douglas leaves very large shoes to fill, Charles fits into them quite comfortably."

Lester, an attorney who has a doctorate in law and social policy from UC Berkeley, worked as an assistant professor of political science at the University of Colorado, Boulder before joining the Coastal Commission in 1997. He earned a bachelor's degree in geochemistry from Columbia University.

He has served as senior deputy director since 2006 and executive director since Douglas announced his retirement.

Lester will be the fourth executive director of the agency, which has a staff of about 140 and an annual budget of $16 million. He will earn $122,000 a year.

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Photo: Charles Lester. Credit: California Coastal Commission

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