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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.


Managing the IMR is no easy task. Very few positions in government work deal with the wide range of issues that this position must oversee. In those instances where Mr. Snyder acted with real concern for the resources, people. and issues he was entrusted with, he met with some real success.

However, had he acted throughout his tenure in a manner consistent with the tone of his essay on cynicism published earlier this week and with the same levels of professed concern for people and doing the right thing, I think a much different situation would exist.

The fiscal realities that Core Ops brought to the forefront are relevant. I don't think many park managers would disagree that something needed to be done about the chronic financial issues faced by the agency. Unfortunately, the manner in which it was fielded and applied led to chaos. Mr. Snyder's claims that he was a reluctant servant of the previous administrations will stand in contrast to the tone and vigor with which he rolled out the program. One need only look at his a member of his management team's reinstatement to a position previously eliminated by Core Ops to see the manner in which this program was handled.

Senior Management will always face criticism for the hard decisions they are forced to make. It has been my experience that this IMR Directorship would make decisions based more on personality and power than anything else. Mr. Snyder had every opportunity to produce documentation that could rebuff the criticism he faced, but he chose not to. This is telling.

I do wish him well in whatever new challenges he faces. I hope he takes with him lessons learned from his tenure and the way it ultimately ended. I can't help but shake my head when reading his account of the re-assignment notification. It was well known prior to this event that Mr. Snyder was facing re-assignment and I doubt seriously this is the first he heard of it. Mentioning this detail is a blatant attempt to erode the clout of the director and is truly sad.
Hopefully, Mr. Snyders experience in helping people through difficult and unwanted change will serve him well.

I am truly hopeful that new IMR management will be quickly found and a fresh start can be enjoyed by all.

I am surprised by the naiveté of commenters who seem to think that the directed reassignment referenced in a fax was the only method by which Mr. Snyder was informed of his pending transfer. Many SES folks are on the move. Nothing particularly unusual about that when there is a change in administration. The distinction with regard to Mr. Snyder is that he chose an especially classless way to communicate his personal choice to retire. He fools no one. And this fits his well established m.o. of doing business. He will not be missed in the IMR.

Waiting to exhale, I read with eyes wide open the announcement issued by Regional Director Mike Snyder on his blog thru Patricia Turley to all intermountain employees. There was glee aplenty in the office I was in. A few whoops and hollers and high fives. Then people went back to their desks and the work day continued on.

For me, as I returned to my desk, I started to breathe again. I have spent the last five years in this region being afraid and doing my job without drawing any attention or offering any ideas or suggestions. I suppose I became a drone to survive. Like many of my colleagues I was core oped and received a directed reassignment. Since I support a family I accepted the directed reassignment rather than retire. It has been hard on all of us including aging parents, high school kids and my extended family.

I don’t know what the future holds for the intermountain region but I look to the future with a measure of hope now. Most importantly I am not afraid. That feels really good.

Perhaps he thinks this:

" No office boy, no charwoman, no servant of any sort would have been dismissed with such callous disregard for the ordinary decencies..." --- Douglas MacArthur, on the method of his dismissal by President Harry Truman

Those many who lost their jobs through Core Ops which "Would not cost a single employee their Job" are rejoicing-True hard choices needed to be made, but the way it was done, with region making the choices with little or no regard to input from the actual park managers-was a travesty.

He should have resigned after the Director's memorandum that put an end to Core Ops in all of the NPS regions. It appears to me, that Mike Snyder wanted to push the Director to force the reassignment, since he couldn't be fired outright. I think it was in very poor taste for Mike Snyder to begin his blog with a "poor me," especially in consideration of all of the people, who held jobs in the IMR that were abruptly ended by him. He surely does not think he is going to receive any sympathy over his reassignment? I agree with those that think it is highly unlikely he didn't know about this earlier on. I think Mike Snyder wanted to make this as unpleasant and controversial for Director Jarvis as possible. Furthermore, I doubt that he will receive any sympathy from anyone in the IMR, other than from his small circle of sycophants. You had to have been there to understand the magnitude of damage Mike Snyder did to the IMR--the parks and the people.

Just a question from an outsider -- I notice that one of the earlier posts indicates Mr. Snyder was not an experienced, up-through-the-ranks NPS veteran when he was appointed IMR director. Was he somehow purely a political appointee of the late administration? What was his background?

Mike did not come into the NPS with his appointment as Regional Director - he had indeed worked for the NPS for for over 20 years - but he had virtually no field experience. He worked for some time as a planner with the Denver Service Center (the national planning and design center) and then moved to a position (within the same building) as the Chief of Planning for what was then the Rocky Mountain Region. From that he became one of the three "mini-regional directors" following the 1995 reorganization. When the NPS morphed back into it's old structure, Mike became the Deputy Regional Director. When the Regional Direcotr that preceeded him moved on to Washington - Mike got the big chair.

There is always a certain tension between central offices and the field (the park units themselves) - and having a Regional Director with almost no field experience (a couple of months once as Acting Superintendent at Glacier) helped to increase that tension. Added to that is the fact that those Mike has appointed to senior regional positions have little or no field experience with one or two rare exceptions. It's hard for field employees to rally around leadership that seemingly has little or no clue, and for the most part no experience, as to what really happens on the ground day to day in the parks.

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