The UCSB Citizens Planning Association hired graduate student LeeAnne French as their new executive director this month.

The CPA promotes responsible land-use planning and environmental protection in the county and organizes annual events such as the Insider’s Guide to Recycling and South Coast Earth Day Festival. French will be replacing current director Naomi Kovacs, who has held the office for the last nine years.

French, who is currently a student at UCSB’s Bren School and board member on the Associated Students Coastal Fund, will soon graduate with a master’s degree in environmental science and management. As executive director of the CPA, French said she hopes to restructure the organization and preserve local resources.

“Key goals for the coming year include participating in Plan Santa Barbara — the General Plan update for the city of Santa Barbara — ongoing support of the Naples Coalition, re-visioning  and re-launching of CPA to attract more citizen participation in land use decisions,” French said. “I hope to change the community’s perception of CPA by proactively formulating positive and collaborative alternatives for highly contested land use issues.”

According to French, she will ensure that the association upholds its long-standing tradition of improving the Santa Barbara community.

“CPA has an illustrative history in Santa Barbara County,” French said. “The organization has fought long and hard to preserve the quality of life in Santa Barbara in order to avoid becoming another Orange County. My primary focus will be to help reshape the organization so that we can continue to be relevant and add value to the community for the next 50 years.”

Nels Henderson, UCSB alumnus and former president of the CPA, said French will rejuvenate the association with a new direction of guidance.

“We are in our 50th year as an organization and I think it appropriate that we begin it with new leadership,” Henderson said. “LeeAnne has many years of experience in business, marketing and public relations. We are lucky that she said yes to our offer of employment.”