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Mike Snyder, Intermountain Regional Director for the National Park Service, Opts for Retirement


Mike Snyder, the Intermountain regional director for the National Park Service, has decided to retire rather than take a reassignment. NPS photo.

Mike Snyder, the Intermountain regional director for the National Park Service who became a controversial figure over his "core ops" approach to budgeting, has decided to retire rather than take a reassignment.

Mr. Snyder announced his plans in a blog posted on the Park Service's intranet.

Mike Snyder's Blog: So long IMR family: I will leave you with a smile

On Monday of this week I traveled to Phoenix for a meeting on the Glen Canyon Dam and how its management affects the Grand Canyon. When I checked into my hotel, there was a fax waiting for me at the front desk. The fax was from the Director, telling me that I was being reassigned, effective in 15 days, to a compliance job in the Denver Service Center.

As you all know, being in the Senior Executive Service means that you can be reassigned at any time. It is something that all of us in that position understand. After the job here as Regional Director, though, I don’t think any other job can measure up in terms of the people you get to work with, the issues that engage you, and the places you get to go. So, I have decided to retire. My retirement date is March 2.

Laura Joss will be the acting Regional Director effective February 17. I know that all of you will work closely with her, support her, and keep carrying on the good work you are doing on behalf of the parks and the NPS mission.

A while back I wrote a blog in which I began with the line “So much of being successful depends on our initial approach and attitude” and ended it with “…every change in life requires a change in thinking.” I will apply that simple logic to the change that I am about to make. This is a new beginning and I am looking forward to all that lies ahead.

I want all of you to know how proud I am of the work you have accomplished for the National Park Service, and how much I enjoyed working with you. We have been through a lot together, and I have always been impressed by the professionalism, dedication and creativity of the people in this region.

As I look back on a long career with the NPS, I feel blessed to have been part of carrying out our mission and to have been able to work with so many talented people. I leave here with a smile, happy to have had such challenging and fulfilling work. Please take care of yourselves, and think first of the safety of your colleagues and friends. I hope our paths will cross again.


In response to the comments from “NPS Survivor”. I appreciated reading your comments and perspectives on the A-76, a process which I was not familiar with. You made some great points. However I would dispute the end of your discussion where you refer to the current superintendent at Grand Canyon being “demoted” for saying NPS needs to do less with less. This philosophy adopted while in D.C. was done to please the DOI political appointees of the previous administration from his post as Deputy Director and frequently as Acting Director. He actually engineered his reassignment from Deputy Director in D.C. to superintendent at Grand Canyon by using then regional director Mike Snyder(who by the way, he also selected as imr regional director) to force Joe Alston out of his superintendent position at Grand Canyon in the harshest of ways. This was far from a demotion. Along with his parachute to Grand Canyon, his wife was promoted without competition into a new “group superintendent position” by Mike Snyder, in a location proximate to Grand Canyon, despite the fact his wife had essentially no park operations supervisory experience. None of this was lost on NPS employees throughout the Service. It is perhaps the reason so many of us became skeptical about the “leadership” of the NPS. We can only hope lessons have been learned and we might move forward as an agency with renewed commitment to mission and to our employees.

It is gratifying to know that what I've been saying about the sad state of professional standards in the NPS (which I have been openly vilified for) is now coming to light from agency insiders who are being smothered by the bureaucratic careerism and lockstep marching of loyalty to mediocre, at best, leaders and of the ladder climbing politics of conformity and never rocking the boat.

Let us hope that this forum will help lead this very weakened and compromised agency out of the morass it now finds itself in. The fact that all of the writers have chosen to remain anonymous tells me a great deal about what an uphill struggle it will actually be.

Thanks to NPS Survivor, brenda starr and all of the other courageous Anonymous posters who chose to share a glimpse into the abysmal bureaucratic mess that is the modern NPS which is so often ignored by park supporters who just want more funds and additional land areas without ever stopping to consider just who exactly it is that is running the show. Your words have done much to shed some light on this subject and hopefully bring change.

Truth be told, though, I ain't holding my breath.

What About the Other Snyder Case?

It has been interesting to read about the saga of the Intermountain Region Director Mike Snyder. The alleged management style and practices appear to be consistent with other top National Park Service brass who worked closely with past NPS Director Fran Manella.

During Manella's reign, there was the typical revolving door of NPS staff across the agency who visited Washington, D.C. to assist the Director's Office with agency business. Often these staff were emersed in some politically sensitive issue. Many of the staff who assisted Fran on these detail assignments, were typically rewarded.

I am sure that many of your readers have questioned the circumstances of Steve Martin and Palma Wilson's placement in key NPS jobs in Arizona. Why is Kevin Brandt still serving at the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park in Maryland after the unethical and illegal activities undertaken relative to secret dealing which led to the removal of trees on National Park lands? This situation was linked directly to Fran Manella and a few behind the scenes faces that want Kevin Brandt to remain silent. What about Teresa Chambers? The NPS made many mistakes relative to this very unfortunate situation.

Hopefully, with removal of Mike Snyder, that some of Fran's cronies sitting in key positions in the NPS will realize that their "Snyder-like" approach to management is not acceptable in the new administration. Hopefully, the NPS will be able to recover from the cancerous actions of Snyder and a few others still out there.

Mike Snyder's statement, "When I checked into my hotel, there was a fax waiting for me at the front desk," is just his side of the story. As espoused by others: how many phone calls, voices mails, and other messages he avoided/ignored he simply overlooks to mention in his pity-party comments. It would seem apparent that he knew it was coming and chose to make it as difficult as possible for the Director to do the house cleaning that is needed.
Those who have lost their jobs due Snyder’s ideological approach to dismantling the IMR, Core-Ops, feel no joy at this. The real concern is about how long it will take to repair the very real damage that has been done.
One down, more than a few to go…

From Anonymous above:

Along with his parachute to Grand Canyon, his wife was promoted without competition into a new “group superintendent position” by Mike Snyder, in a location proximate to Grand Canyon, despite the fact his wife had essentially no park operations supervisory experience.

In my era, 1966-1971, nepotism in hiring and promotion inside the NPS was monitored and actively discouraged. What has happened over the decades?

Owen Hoffman
Oak Ridge, TN 37830

Owen Hoffman's question merits some discussion. I do believe that spouses in the good old days when I started in the NPS, late 50s through early seventies, had a tough row to hoe. In those days spouses were, by definition, the wives. They were (hope this is not to harsh), to be seen but not heard. I can remember my first permanent assignment in a major park, I was just recently married to a women who was better educated than I and very talented. My everlasting good fortune I might add, and I was called in by the manager of my division and informed my wife, now that she was married to me, would have to resign her management position with the Park concessionaire. She was at that time manager of one of the offices. Well, I went home and, not really knowing what to do, but humbly informed her that she was going to have to quit her job. Orders from my boss. She looked at me, asked for the bosses phone number and immediately called him. She informed him that yes, she had married me, but she was not married to the National Park Service and had no intention of leaving her position. Never heard another word. But it does point to the issue of the complexities of nepotism. It does seem unreasonable to punish a spouse, male on female, on the basis of being married. On the other hand, the allegations in this case, if true, are serious. Certainly, a spouse should not be appointed simply on the basis of their marital status in a government public service position. Its an interesting policy issue.

Dual career positions are a good idea, assuming that both spouses are qualified. They were encouraged to eliminate the old problem that ron mackie discusses, of qualified wives being treated like Army wives out of movies like Fort Apache. Although I have never participated in the program, I have known many, many highly qualified couples who both made important contributions to the work force. Many parks were and some still are isolated, and few jobs available except jobs related to the park. If a spouse could get another job nearby, an additional burden would be when the Park Employee spouse is transfered. and the other spouse would have to leave a promising career. Dual career programs went part of the way to bring the NPS into the 20th Century, and was mostly helpful.

The wife of the current Grand Canyon Superintendent is highly regarded by many I know. I would think she could qualify for most any job she really wanted, and would be an asset to the operation.

I also think the world of Joe Alston, but think all the one-size-fits-all/ black&white responses are really beneath most of the posters here, except of course for Beamis. Who can blame anyone like Deputy Director Martin for longing to return to the field after working for Fran Mainella? Especially considering who he would have had to work for if he'd stayed in DC.

Alston and Martin both did the best they knew how on behalf of the parks and the american people, under extremely trying circumstances.

I prefer to think most of those who raise disturbing things that have happened to the NPS do so to show that we can fix the problems, and return to the professionalism of the past, while evolving to respond to the challenges of the future. Other than Beamis, most of us are confident the parks can be healed, and expect to see more healing under Director Jarvis.

I always wondered if NPS had two different management systems in place simultaneously and expensively.

The first is the publicly acknowledged highly decentralized Superintendent model. It places authority closest to the field. Subject matter knowledge in specialized disciplines can be limited.

The second is a highly centralized (and robustly staffed*) regional office model where subject matter experts rule via policy and standards and, lately, control of highly specialized fund sources.** Despite the large investment in staffing it's not at all clear that the structure permits meaningful evaluation of superintendents.

Caught between lies the field employee.

*Many years ago, when the NPS had 10 thousand permanant employees and 10 regions I counted the names on one regional office phone list. 330 was the number, if I remember right. So in this highly unscientific survey, considering 10 regions plus Washington, 3,600 out of 10 thousand permanant employees were in some headquarters position. In my field days that made me angry. Later in my career I thought some headquarters functions were poorly staffed indeed.

** Today much park level energy is spent applying to the National Park Service for National Park monies. The specialized 'pots' may, or may not, meet the operational needs of the park. This methodology limits the effectiveness of the decentralized superintendent model, requires larger headquarters staffs, but does facilitate servicewide initiatives.

What does this mean? Lots of things I suppose. Fundamentally, I think it points to conflict as to whether the NPS is protecting 380 individual units or one nationwide system.

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