Start with managing a city, tack on fundraising for a major nonprofit, blend in an eye for reading cultural trends and fold in the pressure of an epic budget crisis and you'll get a sense of what Cathy Taylor's job is like.
As the state parks superintendent for the Capital District, Taylor oversees nine public properties that include the state Capitol, the Governor's Mansion, the Stanford Mansion, Sutter's Fort and the State Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento.
District budget: $10 million and shrinking. Staff: 200 full- and part-time state workers and 750 volunteers.
Politicians, regardless of party, target state parks in tough times. Then-GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed closing 100 of the state's 270 parks in 2009, before settling on savings from seasonal closures and equipment and maintenance cuts.
Gov. Jerry Brown's administration put 70 parks on a closure list for this summer to save about $22 million. Lawmakers introduced legislation this week to save 50 of them by improving fee collections, specialized license plates, food and beverage sales, and other means.
"It's really incumbent on us to think creatively about how we sustain the parks in the future," Taylor said during a recent interview in her office next door to the Railroad Museum. "How do you build a more sustainable system?"
California's parks get money primarily from facility use fees and the state general fund, now $9.2 billion in the red and counting. Meanwhile, prisons and schools are elbowing for those dwindling dollars.
So Taylor and her peers statewide scour federal, state and local sources for funds. So far, they've been able to cut deals to keep 16 parks on the closure list open, and other agreements are in the works.
"We're always on the hunt to raise money for projects," Taylor said. "A key part of my job is to help with that."
She has plenty of experience. From 1990 to 2001, Taylor directed the State Railroad Museum Foundation, building the fledgling nonprofit into a $3 million-per-year organization. The museum's membership program grew from virtually nothing to thousands of dues-paying supporters who today kick in more than a half-million dollars each year.
Taylor then took a state job as director of the Railroad Museum. Six years later, she moved up to her current position and kept the museum director's duties until the post was filled.
In the age of the iPad, parks and museums have to be "relevant" and well-run to flourish, Taylor said, from changing up major exhibits that lure return visits to keeping facilities clean.
Until last year, for example, none of the properties in Taylor's district took credit cards for walk-up admissions. It's the kind of thing that makes her crazy, and she put her staff on it.
"It was a simple fix, but we hadn't been doing it for 30 years," Taylor said. "It makes us more accessible. And accessibility equals relevance."