National Park Service Director Fran Mainella took a moment the other day, during a visit to George Washington Carver National Monument, to pat herself on her back.
Visiting the monument in Missouri to get an overview of its expansion, the director told the audience that, "Having been here myself means not only will I know about the stories here, it also means that I helped tell the story nationally."
To that she added, "Anything I do goes across our entire system..."
Boy, she got that one right.
Right now about the biggest thing Director Mainella has done to bring attention to the National Park Service is direct a rewrite of the agency's Management Policies. That certainly has brought attention to the Park Service, as papers across the nation that probably rarely find a reason to editorialize about national parks have staked out editorial-page opinions against the revisions.
Plus, quite a few members of Congress have stated their opposition to the rewrite. Just the other day Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who has written both Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Director Mainella to oppose the revisions, wrote an op-ed piece of his own that makes clear his disapproval.
A distant second in how Director Mainella is showering attention on the Park Service is Director's Order 21, which would rewrite the ground rules for commercialization in the parks. Director Mainella was behind that, and it certainly has generated attention for her agency.
But what I can't figure, though, is why the director was absent from recent congressional hearings probing the Management Policies rewrite. And why wasn't she present back in December when her top two deputies held a video-conference with Park Service employees nationwide to answer questions and concerns about the revisions?
Shouldn't the public face of the agency, the person who is calling the shots and is fully behind the revisions, as she pointed out in November when she wrote the Knoxville News-Sentinel to take exception to how one of its columnists disparaged the proposed revisions, stand up before both Congress and her own employees to explain why the revisions are needed?
In a news account of the director's visit to Missouri, she refers to the legacy that the monument represents to the Park Service. You could certainly say Director Mainella is creating her own legacy for the agency.