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John Wessels Appointed Director of National Park Service's Intermountain Region


John Wessels, who has served as the National Park Service’s Intermountain Region associate director for administration, business and technology since 2004, has been named director of the region, the largest in the agency.

Mr. Wessels succeeds Mike Snyder, who opted to take retirement not long after Jon Jarvis took the helm of the Park Service. While the Park Service director never came out and directly said it, Mr. Snyder’s management style was widely criticized in the Intermountain Region for taking a predetermined approach when it came to cutting both personnel and programs.

“John has an incredible track record of tackling tough issues and finding
innovative solutions,” Director Jarvis said Monday in announcing the appointment. “Results-oriented and goal-driven, John manages by inclusion, building a collaborative work ethic among employees and with partners. He strives for the highest standards of transparency and accountability. He has an easy grasp of the big picture and is dedicated to the effective use of new and emerging technologies to meet the needs of the National Park Service.

“As the National Park Service looks toward its second century, he will be a valuable member of our national senior management team.”

Mr. Wessels called the appointment a “tremendous honor.”

“The region is home to some of this country’s most spectacular landscapes and most compelling stories, places that have been entrusted to the National Park Service by the American people for nearly 100 years. It is our privilege to care for the natural and cultural resources in parks and to work with communities around the region to help them preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities for their citizens.

“For me, this is an opportunity to support employees in their dedicated efforts to care for these special places and engage park visitors, partners, and communities,” he added in a prepared statement. “I will listen carefully to their voices as we work together to preserve these places, engage the public, draw young people to the parks, and provide meaningful experiences to our diverse audiences.”

During the last 18 months, Mr. Wessels has led the investment of $200 million in American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funds in priority park projects across the region.  He was the key figure in developing a virtual acquisition strategy that has improved accountability and empowered the workforce with more flexibility for purchasing and contracting, according to the Park Service.  He was responsible for overseeing property management for 43 million acres of public land and more than 2,000 park structures.

Mr. Wessels joined the Park Service in 2000 as the Intermountain Region’s comptroller, where he managed all finance and budget-related activities and developed a web-based system to integrate financial systems data and project information to provide park managers with real-time access to critical income and expense data by park.

During his career he has served as acting deputy superintendent at Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco, acting deputy Intermountain regional director, acting associate director for business services at the National Park Service headquarters in Washington, D.C., and most recently as acting superintendent of Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway in Wyoming.

From 1989 to 2000, Wessels worked for U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Boulder managing financial and administrative functions and systems for the national physics laboratory.

The Intermountain Region spans the states of Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma.  The region includes 92 parks encompassing 11.1 million acres; employs 6,000 permanent and seasonal employees, and generates one-half of all National Park Service concession revenues.  It has more than 230 national historic landmarks and more than 11,000 properties listed in the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.


Isn't he the very person who was responsible for implementing and executing the "core ops" program? The description of his former position sounds like it.

Good observation MRC - and Mr. Wessels was definitely in the thick of things with Core Ops but likely just doing what it took to please the old boss, but it is disconcering to know that the old regime will be alive and well in the Intermountain regional office. John is a yes man - saying whatever needs to be said to please whomever he's saying it to. No follow through and he seldom finishes things that he starts. It's not that surprising that he has been named Regional Director - he's spent his entire time with the NPS positioning himself for bigger and brighter things.

How we had hoped for Jon Jarvis to appoint a career NPS employee with broad field experience but alas it's not to be - business as usual and regional leadership sorely lacking in field experience. I fear this will just appear as vindication for the direction they have taken the region over the past several years. It's sad really, the focus needs to be on park resources and park visitors but the regional office seems to have forgotten that in thier zeal to try and operate a government agency as a business enterprise.


As I understand it, a three-person search committee handled the interviews/vetting and that this was an an open search throughout NPS.

That said, certainly the core ops drama that played out in IMR will focus a keen spotlight on whoever got the job.

The lack of field experience is an interesting aspect. Nevertheless, shouldn't Mr. Wessels be given an opportunity to prove himself and live up to his pledge to "support employees in their dedicated efforts to care for these special places and engage park visitors, partners, and communities. I will listen carefully to their voices as we work together to preserve these places, engage the public, draw young people to the parks, and provide meaningful experiences to our diverse audiences.”

The National Park Service is a more dynamic animal, and administratively more sophisticated, than any one person. Park superintendents, chief rangers, Denver Service Center, and indeed the public are welcome to participate in National Park management. The time may be right for a two-way dialogue to take shape, both honestly and respectfully about those issues impacting NPS business behind-the-scenes. I am willing to bet, that while controversy may be part of the past, that there are very few actual villains. The people involved with the Parks must always assume a place at the dance.

Ben Lord

Kurt - you are right - Mr. Wessels should be given a chance to live up to the comments made in the press release announcing his selection - one does have to wonder if those were actually his words or if they were written for him - but never-the-less he had to have had approval on the content of the press release.

I wish Mr. Wessels no ill will and I hope he succeeds beyond all expectations as director of the largest region in the NPS. That said - those in the field in the Intermountain Region have ten years experience watching Mr. Wessels operate from the regional office and it has not always been with a firm grasp of what the priorities of the NPS really should be. Certainly he had to manage through the Mike Snyder view of the world, but you can't blame field people for being somewhat disappointed that there was nobody better or at least equally as qualified who did not learn park management from the Snyder years.

Time shall tell if the region moves in a positive direction or if it vindicates the past and continues in the same direction as the past few years.

That it was a nationwide search, at least by the vacancy announcement, is certain. That it was the best choice is less certain - and we don't even know if it was truly Director Jarvis' choice - these appointments must be vetted far above the Director's office - that's just a political reality in this day and age.

Hi Kurt- it was nice to run into you on the Avalanche Trail. I hope you had a wonderful hike to Avalanche Lake! - Teagan (Interp. Ranger)

Secretary Salazar is from Colorado. Mr. Wessels is from Colorado.

Never has a decision been so eagerly awaited, and never has one been so bitterly disappointing. Mr. Wessels was a key part of the Intermountain Region’s business-motivated strategies - deeply involved with Core Ops, and a number of costly Business Management Planning efforts that were forced upon IMR parks and then abandoned. His business-centric emphasis represents the worst of what the Snyder years witnessed. I personally heard him attack the Vanishing Treasures program that was so vital to the preservation of archeological resources throughout the region and elsewhere. I am deeply disappointed that Mr. Jarvis selected a person who has spent his brief 10 years with the NPS in the Intermountain Regional Office. Wessels has experienced little of the NPS other than beginning his limited NPS education under the tutelage of Mike Snyder. Perhaps even more seriously, his career experience has not included time in parks (other than detail assignments) and he shares that unfortunate characteristic with Mr. Snyder.
I fear a very bad message is being sent to all of the Intermountain Region employees indicating that change is not really in the offing, that the NPS mission is subordinate to NPS business practices. I too would like to think that John Wessels may harbor some beneficial management insights that were hidden from view while implementing Snyder’s wishes and that he will truly listen to the voices of the NPS employees in Intermountain, but I also fear that this is highly unlikely.
This decision is a poor one…Mr. Jarvis has destroyed the hope that so many of us in the Intermountain Region have harbored since Snyder’s departure. This selection was likely a political one, made at the Department level, but nonetheless does not represent the kind of change we were so desperately hoping for.

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