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Jefferson City area cyclists may recognize the new state parks director as a salesman and mechanic from a local bike shop.

Mike Sutherland was named the director of the Division of State Parks on Friday, according to news release from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Sutherland had been serving as acting director of the division since Nov. 15, when former director Ben Ellis retired. Before that, Sutherland had served as deputy division director since joining the department in June 2017.

"His knowledge and familiarity with both state government and the outdoors made him an excellent candidate for this role. We're looking forward to Mike helping us continue to build relationships as we move into the future," DNR Director Carol Comer said.

Before joining the DNR, Sutherland served as policy director for the Missouri Budget Project, a nonprofit organization focused on budget and tax policy.

He has also served as the executive director of the Boonslick Regional Planning Commission, as a state representative — for eight years, following election in 2002, as a Republican serving what was then the 99th District in Warren and Montgomery counties — as the Warren County assessor, a board member of the Missouri Parks Association and the Missouri State Parks Foundation, and as a salesman and mechanic for Red Wheel Bike Shop in Jefferson City.

"I get excited about bicycling and love sharing that with people," Sutherland said. He added he used to work at Red Wheel part-time quite a bit, but he does not really get to do that anymore with the demands on his time.

Sutherland is a native of Warrenton but lives in Jefferson City. He said he's lived in Jefferson City for about eight years.

He is an "outdoor enthusiast who enjoys hiking, biking and kayaking," and has participated in athletic adventures including "a 50K ultramarathon, the Missouri River 340, hiking the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim in one day, biking the OT100 mountain bike race and competing in the Ironman World Triathlon Championships in Kona, Hawaii," according to the DNR.

"I'm looking forward to an exciting future as I guide the Missouri State Parks team. It takes all of us, together as one team, to make progress toward stewardship, provide excellent service, and make sure we are always doing our part to keep our team and our guests safe. By working together with a positive outlook, no challenge will be too great," Sutherland said in the department's news release.

He later added his priorities include working to stay true to the department's mission "of protecting and interpreting natural and cultural resources," as well as maintenance and repair efforts, and building and supporting the state parks team.

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