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Should Congress approve President Donald Trump’s nomination, Raymond David Vela would be the first Latino superintendent of the National Park Service.
Vela, a 28-year career veteran of the NPS, is the current chief of Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. He would fill the agency’s top position, vacant since Jonathan Jarvis left the post in January 2017 after serving as director during the Obama administration.
“David Vela has demonstrated all of the ideals that the National Park Service stands for, and his long track record of leadership on behalf of the people and places of the National Park Service distinguish him as the right man for the job,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a statement. “Our extraordinary national parks will be in the best of hands with David at the helm.”
Vela began his NPS career in 1981 at San Antonio Missions National Historical Park in Texas. He went on to become a full-time ranger, served as director of the NPS’ Southeast Region, and held park superintendent posts at Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site, Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, and the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
Just prior to Grand Teton, Vela was associate director for Workforce, Relevancy, and Inclusion in the NPS headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“I am deeply humbled by the President’s nomination to serve as the 19th Director of the National Park Service, and if confirmed, I look forward to working with Secretary Zinke to address the NPS maintenance backlog, protect our national treasures, and serve all who come to enjoy the parks,” Vela said in the statement. “Having worn the uniform of the National Park Service for more than 28 years, I greatly value all that it represents and the importance of ensuring that we build a next generation workforce that is ready to take on the challenges and opportunities facing our agency.”
If Congress signs off, Vela would assume a number of challenges, including sexual harassment allegations, the oil and gas industry encroaching on public lands, removal of advisors, and an $11.6 million park maintenance backlog, just to name a few.