You are here

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.


The reservation is not part of the park.  Two entirely separate entitities.

Thanks Mr. Wessels for the plastic bottle ban, although I think it's
completely off target. On my first trip to the Grand Canyon in 2008 I was
completely appalled by the amount of litter and trash all over the canyon floor
at the Havasupai Indian Reservation/Havasu Falls area. On the way out I picked
up as much of the litter as I could, filling two large, black trash bags,
encouraging others along the route out of the canyon to do likewise.  I
picked up everything in the eleven mile stretch except for the large dump of
litter stretching from the foot of the basin to the top, which was far too much
to remove. As I recall, the majority of the trash I hauled out of the
reservation was actually aluminum cans, although there was a great deal of
plastic bottles.  Maybe we can get a ban on aluminum too? Oh, while you're at it, please place
a ban on dirty diapers and single shoes with no mate.  I found those
too.  Stupid one-legged mothers.

Even though a plastics ban is a good starting point, I think the better
approach wouldn't be to eliminate plastic bottles, but impose / enforce fines
for littering.  But don't expect any help from the native
population.  They didn't seem to care about the litter.

I keep reading about core operations, can someone tell me what it is, and what problems it caused?

Perhaps the first real evidence of what John Wessels will do as Regional Director will come as he fills the three Associate Regional Director positions that are now vacant - let's see who he surrounds himself with in the hall of heroes at the IMR. The ARD for Operations, arguably one of the most important positions has been vacant for over a year - will it be someone with field experience or not? Perhaps most important to watch is the selection of the ARD for Administration, Business & Technology - the position that Wessels just vacated. Will it go to someone who can restore and rebuild that which has been broken or will it go to the current acting who was the queen of Core Operations?

So JLongstreet - just whhich NPS do you work for? Curious that there isn't a single Longstreet listed in our email directory?

This comment flies in the face of reality. Mr. Wessels has not demonstrated the traits of a good NPS manager...those of us who actually worked with and around him in IMR know that for a long time, his focus was on pleasing Snyder's "run the NPS like a business" mentality. Wessels was right there with him. And his graduating from Interior's SES training is hardly a reason to think he's qualified to lead the region...Snyder was a SES'r as well. I'm afraid it is "unfair and untrue" to maintain that he is qualified to lead the Region...there simply is no real evidence (besides the rhetoric we've been hearing) to support this.
Undoubtedly, the politically savvy thing to do here is to support the selection publicly. Unfortunately, there is a lot of painfully-earned cynicism rampant in the Intermountain Region and it is difficult to understand how this selection serves the NPS well. Lessons learned in the past few years have shown that silence on these issues, while perhaps preserving some sort of false NPS loyalty, does not serve the NPS well. I’m sure there are many who lost their jobs or were forced to move that find it difficult to simply accept this decision.
It will indeed be a surprise if John Wessels becomes a very good regional director, and that’s the problem.

Unquestionably John Wessels was associated with Mike Snyder for many years and it is understandable that there be some concerns about how independent he will be. But the "guilty-before-proven-innocent" comments from within the Intermountain Region are disheartening, to say the least. The conspiracy theorists are not helping themselves, or the NPS, here.

Whether or not one is a fan of Jon Jarvis, I am nonetheless convinced that this was a fair and open hiring process. John Wessels is NOT one of Jarvis' cronies, nor particularly close to Salazar or DOI leadership. While he doesn't have a lot of field experience, Wessels is an outstanding manager, committed to his core to the NPS parks and people, and of the utmost integrity. He's also a recent graduate of the Department of the Interior's Senior Executive Service training program, the highest level training program in the agency. It's simply unfair and untrue to say he isn't qualified, even if some wished the new RD came from a different discipline.

He'll have to separate himself from Snyder, and quickly. But I think he may surprise people and make a very good regional director.

NPS Park Superintendent

"Never has a decision been so eagerly awaited, and never has one been so bitterly disappointing."

That my friends is the whole story in a single sentence.

Never has a region been so starved for effective, balanced, and experienced leadership and we've been served damaged goods. The best people can muster in support of Wessel's selection seems to be "give him a chance" or let's "wait and see."

We've waited far too long to re-emerge from years of vindictiveness, narrow vision, and lack of field experience. As one commenter observed we were thrilled when Jon Jarvis was named Director - but don't ask us to be thrilled that one of the prime architects of the programs that ran this region into the ground has been selected as the Regional Director.

Wessells may well be a gifted leader (although there is little strong evidence if you look at the programs he has been responsible for during the last decade) - but he begins with at least one hand tied behind his back. Why make the parks in the Intermountain Region suffer that handicap?

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide

Recent Forum Comments