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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.


Please look into staff that work out of their homes.

In response to d2’s earlier comments. I think that in most cases dual-career opportunities have benefited both parks and the couples who strive to have meaningful careers in the NPS. That said, the Martins pose a bit of an exception in this case. Most dual-career NPS employees have often been forced to live apart in pursuit of their careers, many times living in different states especially if they chose to pursue positions as Superintendents.

As we all know, Steve Martin and Mike Snyder’s careers in IMR were linked in a number of ways including support for Core Ops. While it may be true that Ms. Martin is well-respected by some in her career as a NPS liaison with Native American Tribes, her appointment to a newly-created Group Superintendent supervising three other Superintendents and placing her in an office in Flagstaff was highly unusual. This position was created specifically for her, to accommodate the Martins as a couple. Adding to the injustice, Ms Martin ended up supervising at least one other superintendent who was more experienced. She had no previous personal experience with park management. Likewise, a very close friend of the Martins, Diane Chung, was given the highly-prized Superintendent position in Flagstaff after years in another agency and no real experience with NPS park management (Perhaps this was a preferred characteristic because it closely matches Snyder’s own lack of park experience). Later, wielding Core Ops as the weapon of choice, Ms. Chung with Snyder’s blessing became the Superintendent of an even larger group of parks (Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot were added to the Wupatki, Walnut Canyon, and Sunset Crater Volcano group). Presently, Ms. Chung and Ms. Martin share adjoining offices in Flagstaff. By the way, the existing much more experienced and mission-minded Superintendent of Montezuma Castle/Tuzigoot was/is still in place and was given the title of Deputy Superintendent after the new group was formed. To this day, the reorganization of these parks under Ms. Chung continues, although it’s hard to believe that they can still call it Core Ops, given the Director’s memo ending Core Ops.

All of this is relevant because it points to what so many others have stated: the IMR Directorate staffing in the regional office and some superintendents are closely linked to Mike Snyder’s failed leadership and real change cannot be truly realized merely with the retirement of Mike Snyder. The results of his destructive management style and unjust staffing decisions must be reviewed and changes made at leadership level across the region for true change to take place. So many loyal and committed park employees and the resources they are sworn to protect remain at risk or have suffered job loss or been forced to move because of the Snyder reign that the credibility and trust in leadership can only be restored when the minions who willingly carried out the Snyder’s will are subject to review by new leadership.

Still, I would like to join my colleagues in applauding Mr. Snyder’s departure…although I truly think some experience with environmental compliance might have been beneficial for him. Anyway, yes Mike, we are smiling for the first time in a long time.

In response to d-2's comments I think the reasons many of us are skeptical concerning the appointment of Steve Martin and his wife and friends as Superintendents in Northern Arizona speaks directly to the problems with Mike Snyder's and Steve Martin's intertwined careers and management direction Although Ms Martin may be well-respected in her Native American liaison role by some, it does not follow that she was/is in any way qualified to become a group Superintendent, she had no experience in park management. Also, another Superintendent, Diane Chung, who is close friends with the Martins became the Superintendent in Flagstaff where Ms. Martin has her office. Ms. Chung was given a highly-prized position in Flagstaff despite her lack of management experience in the NPS. (I suppose that matches well with Snyder's career.) In their first positions as Superintendents, both of these folks were given positions that managed groups of parks rather than individual small parks. And of course, Core Ops still continues in the Flagstaff Parks (perhaps disguised as something else now) as has been mentioned in previous posts.
I would join with those that are calling for an examination of the IMR managment both in the Regional Directorate Office and in the park management level that was so strongly influenced by Mr. Snyder. I too hold great hope for the future of the NPS, but the IMR needs real change that cannot be be fully realized without a complete review, the retirement of Mike Snyder itself does not remove the negative effects of his tenure and staffing decisions.
Goodbye Mike.

I believe this man single-handedly did more harm to the National Park Service than will be realized for a very long time. It is in personnel practices, science and resource management practices, the budget and the taught and learned administrative practices; in all phases of the operations and planning. There were and still are many things hidden which were built upon from 1994/95 when the NPS reorganized. His fingerprints are all over that particular process and will continue until he is out the door.

Hopefully, Jon Jarvis, given the opportunity and enough time, will understand the breadth of the destruction and will be able to begin the mending. It will not happen easiy or quickly. It will take hard work by all the get to the system back on track and truly become, once again, "America's Best Idea". Something to look forward too.

Nonetheless, the IMR needs a housecleaning! Or a woodshed. Those that remain helped Snyder skirt the rules...if they are not held accountable the same thing will repeat itself in the very near future. It always does.

I would like to thank the previous commenter who reminds us all that there are many layers in the regional office. The addition of so many new positions has largely been at the higher end of the GS scales, 13, 14, & 15, with fewer worker bees left to do the actual work. I appreciate the hard work of many of my colleagues in region. I agree they have the same love of national parks and the NPS mission that park based employees share. I also agree there needs to be a serious review of what functions are being performed and at what cost and what constant reporting and data calls can be reduced or eliminated. The National Park Service is an agency which includes one of the most stressed out work forces of any in the federal government. Our days chained to our computers belie how most people perceive the work of NPS employees. We have to please too many masters including our agency's hierarchy, the Congress, political appointees, and the American public.
The constant demands and competing priorities exceed our collective capacities to deliver anything really well on a sustained and focused basis. Yet once upon a time, not so long ago we were regarded as one of the very best agencies in the federal government.

Again, there are many interesting, albeit some over-the-top suggestions.

1. On Director Jarvis complaint by Anon: he did, after all, eliminate both Core Ops and Snyder. He stopped the ridiculous Bomar reorganization in the Northeast Region. Yes, some are imploring him to be more visible and more political. His style has always been more gradualist, and perhaps it will work for him now, perhaps not. Clearly, the Secretary loves the limelight and may not want to share it.

2. On cutting Regional Offices: the other Anon, who cautions applying Core Ops to Regions has an important point. The small parks really need the Regions. They need the contract officers. They need back up. Some of the less experienced park superintendents really need mentors, both from the field but also from professionals in the Region. Too many critical positions in the Regions have been cuts, and the field is really suffering, in the small parks, because of loss of Land Acqisition staff, lack of contractors, lack of mentors, lack of partnership expertise, etc etc etc. Many of the best of these people have been purged during the Mainella and Bomar regimes.

3. The point about Parks having to waste time applying for NPS funds is SO true. Something, though, should be said about the role of the Examiners at OMB who attack the Interior Department and especially the National Park Service. Many of the "accountability" systems they have been requiring to be set up is the reason funding requests have become so convoluted. Remember once when people spoke of "flattening" organizations to make them more effective?? Well these REALLY anonymous people in OMB are doing an amazing disservice to the United States, and no one calls them out for gross inefficency, because it is presumed that attacking the federal government is the same thing as making it effective. NOT.

One of the reasons whe get so many high-graded people in central offices chasing their tails is because all the new 'accountability' requirements can only be managed by high graded people. No one has ever computed how much money is wasted by these supposed 'efficiency' processes. Some of these, like GPRA, are imbedded in law (although the WAY they are being implemented was driven by these same destructive OMB Examiners). THEREFORE, these things cannot be changed overnight, EVEN IF JARVIS WANTS TO. I think he realizes what is wrong, and already is starting to chip away at it. It will take time, skill, and A LOT of assistance from congress, environmental organizations and websites like this one.

ALL levels of the NPS, the Parks, the Washington Office and the Regions are going to have to work together and value how each makes an important contribution for this to work. Up til now, by dividing different wings of the NPS, its opponents have been allowed to walk all over the System and the Service. Like the Ranger who said the problem was the Planners. Time to work together.

Where is Director Jarvis? Why don't we hear from him more? In this era of mass communications it is imperative that he use the electronic medium to communicate and lead our agency out of the abyss.

We have just lived through several NPS Directors who were either absent, not engaged, collecting / vacationing in the parks, trying to change our core policies or planning a big party for 2016. These past Directors rarely talked to us about our resources, mission or values. They never went to bat for the hard resource fights, which define us. They were place holders and the NPS was adrift under their leadership.

Director Jarvis maybe doing good work, but who knows, because he is not communicating. Leaders talk to the troops, sincerely and often. We can interpret personnel changes, like the Mike Snyder affair, as action; however, this is management - not leadership.

Communicating a vision for, and implementing a plan to achieve a return to agency greatness, is badly needed. That is leadership.

Successful NPS Directors have been those who knew their workforce. They know us. They get it. They know what motivates us. Most NPS employees want the agency to live up to its enabling legislation, its proud history and its idealistic vision. We want to be a part of something great. Anything less, pisses us off. Mike Snyder did not get any of this, and he certainly did not pursue an agenda which was anything near what we consider to be our core values. He was about politics.

Most of the whining I hear in this blog and others is about our failure to function at a level that we can be proud of; that we expect for ourselves. After all, we are the National Park Service. That moniker has meaning - at least it did.

Director Jarvis needs to send a strong and clear message that he will not put up with those who fail to put the NPS Mission, its resources and its people first. He needs to be especially harsh on those who erect or maintain petty barriers, are self-serving political personalities and who fail to buy into mission first prioritization. We need to make a dramatic move towards field tested and respected competence.

Lead. For God's sake, lead!

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