National Park Service Workforce Diversity Banner

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender contributions to the workforce of the National Park Service

(Let us know if you would like your information to appear on this website! Please contact the web author,, with your biography and a photograph.)

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photo of Melissa Axtman

Melissa M. Axtman, Regional Facility Operations Specialist, National Capital Regional Office

Melissa has over 25 years of experience in the Facility Management Field. She started her career at Lowell National Historic Park in 1986. Following Lowell NHP, she has held positions as the FMSS Program Manager for the Northeast Region, Facility Operations Manager for the National Parks of New York Harbor, and Facility Manager for the Staten Island Unit of Gateway NRA.

In 2011, she became the Regional Facility Operations Specialist for the National Capital Region. Melissa and her partner of 13 years (civil union in Vermont in 2000), Julia Clebsch, Park Ranger at the National Mall, share their lives with 2 beagles (Oliver and Samantha), their cat, Pepe, and a rescued white pigeon named Birdie.

photo of K Lynn Berry

K. Lynn Berry, Program Manager for the National Heritage Area (NHA) program, Southeast Region

K. Lynn Berry is the Program Manager for the National Heritage Area (NHA) program in the Southeast Region. She came to the National Park Service with a background in community and environmental planning, as well as cultural resource management and public involvement processes. She has worked in federal and state government, as well as private consulting. Her BA in cultural anthropology led to a Masters in the same field; later studies led to another Masters in City and Regional Planning.

Once, prior to a training course Ms. Berry was teaching, a student of hers showed up with the results of an online search for “K. Lynn Berry” in his hands. Smiling broadly, he pointed out her credits in various college theatrical productions; the book she co-wrote; her committee work with her church; and conference presentations galore. The Internet can be dangerous.

Ms. Berry should be very good at geography, but somehow – despite the following – she’s still kind of slow that way. She grew up in Arkansas, went to college in Indiana at the University of Notre Dame, moved to Chicago, then to Florida, went to graduate school in Denver, then moved to Albuquerque. She landed in Atlanta 12 years ago. She loves to travel, too, and has toured many African, Asian, European, Central-, South-, and North American countries. But, don’t assume that well-traveled means well-oriented; asking her for directions anywhere will do you more harm than good.

She enjoys kayaking, biking, hiking and other outdoor pursuits, but will rarely turn down an invitation to the theatre, fine restaurants, or museums (especially fine restaurants). Growing edge hobby: blacksmithing. She has convinced her partner, Lynn-Margaret, that her dog, Freebie, is the cutest animal in the world. She has yet to convince Lynn-Margaret that acoustic folk is the best music in the world.

photo of Gary Bremen

Gary Bremen, Park Ranger, Biscayne National Park

Gary Bremen decided to become a park ranger when he was just 7 years old, after a long road trip to many national parks with his parents. He began his career at Mammoth Cave National Park, and he has also worked at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Roger Williams National Memorial, and Everglades National Park. In 1996, he returned to his home in South Florida and has been at Biscayne National Park ever since. He gets invigorated by the opportunity to get people (especially kids) excited about the place he spent so much time in as a child, and he created the multi-award winning Family Fun Fest program in 2001 as one way to do that. Roger Boone, his partner of nearly 15 years, is one of the program’s key volunteers. “We both love to travel, and our plans almost always include visits to other national parks,” says Bremen. “Even on visits outside the U.S., we seek out national parks, and it always gives me a great deal of satisfaction knowing that the whole idea of a National Park began right here in the U.S.”

photo of Julia Clebsch

Julia C. Clebsch, Park Ranger (Interpretation), Old Post Office Tower, National Mall

Julia Clebsch started with the National Park Service a little later in life, and she’s had a wide-ranging NPS career since then. She began with piloting an interpretive partnership between NPS and the U.S. Forest Service. From there, Clebsch was in the 1996-1998 Servicewide Intake Trainee program. She has been an Education Ranger at Lowell NHP, a Park Planner in the Northeast Regional Office, a Tractor Operator and a Clerk at Independence NHP, Acting Housing Manager for Gateway NRA, and Park Ranger (Interpretation) at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge/Gateway NRA. Since 2011, Clebsch has been a Park Ranger (Interpretation) at the Old Post Office Tower in Washington, D.C. As you can tell, her skill set has become broad and diverse.

Clebsch and her partner, Melissa Axtman, (civil unioned in Vermont in 2000) who works in Facility Management, have managed to make 3 dual-career moves together. They recognize how fortunate they are and hope to make more moves as they explore their careers and the NPS.

photo of Tammi Corchero

Tammi L. Corchero, Supervisory Park Ranger, Canyon Interpretation, Yellowstone National Park

Inspired by family vacations to National Parks throughout the west, I’ve wanted to be a park ranger since childhood. My first step toward realizing “the dream” was working in Stanislaus National Forest near Yosemite with the Youth Conservation Corps during the summers of 1978-79. I then moved on to wildland fire-fighting for the Bureau of Land Management in Idaho from 1980-1982. Looking for not just a job, but an adventure, I joined the Navy to see the world from 1983-1993, after which I earned a B.A. in Liberal Studies from San Diego State University and an M.A. in Earth Science from the University of Northern Colorado. I finally got my start with the NPS as a volunteer with the Geologist-in-Parks Program at Mount Rainier in 2002. I worked as a seasonal Interpretive Ranger at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Mesa Verde National Parks. My permanent status came with a job as an Administrative Assistant at Mesa Verde in 2007, and then in 2008 I moved on to my current position as Supervisory Park Ranger for the Canyon District, Division of Resource Education and Youth Programs, Yellowstone National Park. Life is good!

photo of John Evans

John Evans, Assistant Branch Chief, Law Enforcement Operations, Law Enforcement, Security and Emergency Services, WASO

John Evans, who has focused on law enforcement, was recently the Canyon District Ranger at Grand Canyon National Park. He oversaw ranger operations including Search and Rescue, Emergency Medical Services and Law Enforcement below the rim. John is a paramedic, teaches search and rescue, emergency medicine, and law enforcement techniques and tactics. John recently followed his spouse to Washington, DC and is working for the national office focused on new service wide programs including a new computer based records system.

Evans has worked at Dinosaur National Monument, Canyonlands National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Grand Canyon National Park. He and David Smith, his partner of twenty-two years, have worked together as Park Rangers since they returned from a cross-country road trip. They found beautiful places staffed with great people and decided to seek employment in the parks. Moving through the service as a couple has been challenging and rewarding.

Although John is a WASO employee, he is duty stationed with his partner David in Kansas. The Midwest Region has been amazingly supportive of trying to keep married couples together whenever possible.

Brian Forist and Warren Ziegler

Warren Ziegler and Brian Forist have worked in and around national parks throughout much of their 22 years together. It is their hope to work in the same park before long.

photo of Brian Forist

Brian Forist, Park Guide, Lincoln Home National Historic Site

Brian began his NPS career with Student Conservation Association positions in Canyonlands and Olympic National Parks. He then served as a Park Ranger at North Cascades National Park Complex (Ross Lake National Recreation Area) and as Environmental Education Program Specialist at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. After leaving the NPS for nearly two decades of graduate school and work in not-for-profit organizations, he returned to the NPS in a partner capacity. He spent six years in the Washington Office Social Science Program (University of Idaho and Texas A&M University), managing a variety of research activities and the review and clearance of all public surveys conducted by and for the NPS. He then served as Education Director at Indiana Dunes Environmental Learning Center. He has since been a VIP at Hovenweep National Monument and a Park Ranger (Interpretation) at Zion National Park. He is currently a Park Guide at Lincoln Home National Historic Site. Upon leaving Lincoln Home he will be completing a Ph.D. in the Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies at Indiana University, focusing his research on the effectiveness of informal park interpretation.

photo of Brian Forist

Warren Ziegler, Administrative Technician (Interpretation), Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

After careers as a choral musician (Norman Luboff Choir and Tanglewood Festival Chorus) and retail manager (Barnes & Noble), Warren worked for Eastern National (EN) managing bookstores at Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site and the Washington Monument. It was during his time with EN that he discovered an affinity for working in national parks. He has worked seasonally as a Park Guide at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and as a Visitor Use Assistant at Denali National Park & Preserve. Warren is currently the Administrative Technician for the Division of Interpretation and Education at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore , and will complete a BA in Liberal Studies at Purdue University North Central in December of 2012.

photo of Kevin Franken

Kevin Franken, Administrative Support Assistant, Yellowstone National Park

Kevin was born and raised in Peoria, Illinois. After graduating from college with B.S. degrees in Environmental Biology and Botany, he moved west to attend law school at the University of Oregon. He quickly fell in love with the mountains, flora and fauna, national forests and parks, and the people who called the West home. After graduating with a J.D. in 2004, Kevin realized he wanted to have a career outdoors, so he pursued a career as a Park Ranger. Kevin began his NPS career at Crater Lake National Park in summer 2005, where he presented interpretive talks and staffed the visitor centers. Kevin lucked out yet again by getting hired that winter (and the next) to lead snowshoe hikes at Crater Lake. He worked as an interpretive ranger at Mount St. Helens (U.S. Forest Service) in summer 2006 and at Grand Canyon National Park in summer 2007.

While Kevin enjoyed “park hopping” as a seasonal ranger, he wanted to work year-round, so he accepted a term office assistant position at Yellowstone in September 2007 and became permanent in 2010. In June 2011, with the encouragement of Interior GLOBE, a GLBT employee group, Kevin received approval from park superintendent Dan Wenk for Yellowstone employees to march in the Montana Gay Pride parade in Bozeman. Several NPS and concession employees made history by officially representing Yellowstone at a GLBT event for the first time. Kevin was also proud to appear in the Department of Interior’s “It Gets Better” video in the summer of 2011. Even though Kevin has often been the only out gay male NPS employee where he’s worked, being able to live and work in some of the most beautiful places in the world has been a dream come true.

Dan Wenk (left) presents the Protocol Office certificate to Jim Gasser. NPS photo.

**Jim Gasser Receives Certified Protocol Specialist Designation**

In 2011, Deputy Director Dan Wenk presented Jim Gasser with a certificate designating him as a protocol specialist for the National Park Service. Gasser has managed major conferences and events for the service for the past ten years after returning to Washington, D.C., from the Presidio, where he was the last NPS chief of leasing and concessions.

In making the presentation, Wenk acknowledged Gasser’s expertise in the field of protocol and event management. They have worked together on several high-level meetings. The designation of certified protocol specialist reflects Gasser’s experience and training in the field of military and governmental protocol and event management. The certificate represents Gasser’s successful completion of 80 hours of protocol classes in the past two years.

Gasser manages about 70 meetings, events and conferences during the course of a year. He has provided support for the National Leadership Council, National Park System Advisory Board, and National Park Service associate directors’ meetings. He has also managed or provided support to four White House conferences and several Department of the Interior meetings and events during the past ten years.

Jim Gasser has developed a program that can respond to Servicewide questions from parks and programs on a variety of protocol and event issues. He reports to the NPS chief of staff, Maureen Foster. Jim lives in the District of Columbia with his partner of 35 years, Gregg Ramsey; Jim and Gregg were married in Toronto, Canada in 2003 on the 25th anniversary of their meeting.

photo of Andrew Gertge

Andrew Gertge, Park Ranger (Interpretation & Education), Glacier Bay National Park / Everglades National Park

I am an interpretive park naturalist at Glacier Bay National Park in the summer and an environmental education specialist at Everglades National Park in the winter. I have worked 5 seasons with the National Park Service and I am continually fascinated by the ways our protected places transform, empower and inspire.

Before working with the NPS, I lived and worked in large cities in Europe , Asia and North America. This experience helped expand my worldview, expose me to languages and teach me intercultural sensitivity; yet it also helped me realize just how critical protected natural places are to me.

I hope to continue a career within the interface of human development and protected places and see my NPS interpretive and education work as the perfect starting point.

It is true that seasonal work with the NPS does present challenges to relationships, particularly to us in the LGBTQ community. I have been extremely fortunate, though, to have found very affirming professional and social communities as an NPS ranger. It doesn’t hurt, of course that I live and work in such astounding places—places that continue to teach me more about beauty, about resilience and about hope.

photo of Gayle Hazelwood

Gayle Hazelwood, Deputy Regional Director, Southeast Regional Office

Gayle was born in Cambridge, Ohio, as the youngest of five children. She attended Ohio University, earning an undergraduate degree in Therapeutic Recreation and a Masters degree in Recreation Management.

Gayle started her NPS career as a seasonal at Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area in 1983 and was hired on permanently in 1985. As a Recreation Specialist and District Interpreter there, she created the first in-park, overnight experience for inner city children. This Junior Ranger program provided a first-time, and in most cases, only experiences in a national park for hundreds of inner city youth from Cleveland and Akron, Ohio.

In 1991, Gayle became the Chief of Interpretation at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. There, she spearheaded the completion of the permanent exhibits in the new visitor center, which was completed in 1996. She also managed the multi-agency Welcome Center developed for use during the Centennial Olympic Games.

Gayle was an Interpretive Specialist in the Southeast Regional Office from 1997 to 1998.

From 1998 to 2003, as Superintendent of New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, Gayle was responsible for the oversight of park operations. She worked with the park’s Commissioners, community leaders, and city officials to complete a construction plan for the park’s permanent facilities. She also worked with park staff to establish the park’s first visitor contact facility.

In 2003, Gayle became Deputy Superintendent at National Capital Parks - East and then became Superintendent in 2004. She was responsible for day-to-day operations in the park, which included oversight of 13 individual units, four divisions, and a 13 million dollar budget.

Gayle was selected as Deputy Regional Director in the Southeast Region in November 2009. In this position, she directly supervises 15 park superintendents along the eastern seaboard, from North Carolina to northern Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. She also has direct oversight of the following program areas: natural and cultural resources, inventory and monitoring, cooperative ecosystem study units (CESU’s), Southeast Archeology Center, and the NPS’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities program.

photo of Martha Hess

Martha Hess, Interpretive Specialist, Crater Lake National Park

Martha Hess began working for the National Park Service as a VIP at Katmai National Park in 1992, when her girlfriend was a ranger there. She fell in love with Katmai and interpretation. She became a seasonal interpreter, seasonal supervisor, and then permanent interpretive operations supervisor at Katmai, leaving behind her job as an attorney in San Antonio, Texas, to work in a world of volcanoes, brown bear, and salmon.

In the fall of 2002, she moved to Oregon, becoming the interpretive supervisor at Crater Lake, overseeing staff running visitor centers, and leading guided hikes and boat tours. Since 2010, she has been working at Crater Lake as an interpretive specialist, focusing on interpretive media projects, including trail guides, and a new wayside exhibit plan, park brochure and park film. A favorite duty is sharing the NPS history and mission with all park staff at training each spring. She also loves the long snowy winters at Crater Lake that allow for many months of cross-country skiing each year.

photo of Charles Higgins

CAPT Charles L Higgins, Director, Office of Public Health

CAPT Charles L. Higgins (Chuck) is a commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service and is assigned to NPS as the Director of the Office of Public Health in WASO. The NPS Office of Public Health assists NPS managers and staff with all public health issues occurring within the system and carries out the NPS health promotion activities called Healthy Parks Healthy People US.

Chuck has a BS and MS in Environmental Health from Colorado State University. He’s worked in public health for over 35 years at the local, state and federal level. Before being assigned to the NPS, Chuck served at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.

Chuck lives in Washington, DC and is married to John Gileza, who works for Air Canada.

photo of Erin Huggins

Erin Huggins, Interpretive Park Ranger, Grand Canyon National Park

Erin Huggins is an interpretive park ranger and has worked for the National Park Service for several years now. Early on in Erin's career, it was difficult for her, being that she was one of only a handful of squirrels working in the agency. Uniform shirts didn't come in size XXS, and the green pants didn't accommodate room for a bushy tail. Oh how the times have changed. Now there are hundreds of squirrels working in the National Park Service, and they have become an integral part of the agency workforce.

Having worked at parks like Everglades, Big Cypress, Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial, and Great Basin has helped Erin become a well-rounded rodent and a skilled interpreter.

In March 2012, Erin became engaged to Holly Richards.

photo of AJ Legault

A.J. Legault, Law Enforcement Park Ranger, Scotts Bluff National Monument

A.J. Legault grew up in Salem, Massachusetts, living literally next door to the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. Said Legault, "I admired the Park Rangers working there. They saw my interest in the park's history and allowed me to go on all the tours. After attending so many of the tours, I had all of them memorized. I told everyone I was going to be a Park Ranger someday."

After serving eight years in the U.S. Army, Legault moved to Arizona. A.J. started his career with the National Park Service at the Grand Canyon, working for the Fee Office, then later at the Backcountry Information Center. Working with phenomenal Law Enforcement Rangers at Grand Canyon sparked a new path to follow.

After graduating from FLETC in 2005, he moved to Florida, working at Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas National Monuments. "Florida is where I met Jason. 2 years ago, we moved to Jason's hometown of Gering, Nebraska, to my present job at Scotts Bluff National Monument." After 6 years together, A.J. and Jason were united in a commitment ceremony at the monument in July of 2011 and married in a courthouse ceremony in Iowa in October of the same year.

In closing, Legault offered these words on working the National Park Service: "I am proud to wear my Park Service uniform, hearing from people every day, 'You have the best job.' The fact that I am living my childhood dream is surreal to me."

photo of Craig Kenkel

Craig Kenkel, Superintendent, Cuyahoga Valley NP, First Ladies NHS and James A. Garfield NHS

As superintendent, Craig Kenkel is responsible for strategic leadership and operational management of a 30,000 acre river valley park, the historic home of the 20th President, and a site honoring our Nation’s First Ladies. A 31 year NPS employee, Craig has extensive experience caring for park historic and cultural resources as well as managing parks in urban areas. First he worked as an architect specialized in historic preservation and then he expanded into management of NPS cultural resource programs for archeology, architecture, cultural landscapes, ethnography, history and museum collections. Prior to his current assignment for Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the James A. Garfield and First Ladies National Historic Sites, Craig was superintendent at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park (2010-2014), acting Deputy Superintendent (2009-2010) and Chief of Cultural Resources (2005-2009) at Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Regional Chief of Cultural Resources for the Midwest Region (1997-2005), and a Regional Historical Architect at the Midwest Region (1992-1997) and Western Region (1989-1992). While still an Iowa State University architecture college student, he began his career in 1983 on the Western Team of the Denver Service Center. Craig is part of a large Iowa farm family and has lived in Denver, Omaha, and San Francisco; he now resides in Lakewood, Ohio.

photo of Michael Liang

Michael Liang, Visual Information Specialist, Northeast Regional Office, Philadelphia

Michael began his NPS career as a youth participant in an environmental day camp at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, where his uncle was a ranger. There, he fell in love with the outdoors and the idea of one day working for the NPS. While majoring in art at the University of Michigan, he served as a Student Conservation Association intern at North Cascades National Park and returned each summer to work as a seasonal interpretive ranger. Through the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP), he became a permanent employee at North Cascades National Park, also working on science communication projects with the North Coast and Cascades Science Learning Network.

In his current position at the Northeast Regional Office, he provides creative and technical support on projects relating to: web and social media; publications; interpretive exhibits; and multimedia. Topics may vary from the War of 1812 commemoration efforts to ocean stewardship and climate change. Outside of the office, Michael can be found in the kitchen, working on a cookbook to celebrate the NPS centennial:

photo of Sharon Miles

Sharon Miles, Community Planner, Midwest Region but outbased in Denver

I started my National Park Service career as a seasonal law enforcement ranger in the 1980s and into the early 1990s. During that time, I did not feel comfortable (or safe) publicly identifying as a lesbian, so I remained firmly in the closet, even to my closest ranger colleagues and friends. In 2000, I became a planner in the Midwest Region. Throughout my tenure in Omaha (2000-2006), I was out as a lesbian, spoke freely about my partner, and never experienced any negative feedback at all. Since 2006, I've been "outbased" in the Denver Service Center -- same experience here. Things have gotten so much better in the NPS since the 1980s that my partner is looking forward to getting onto my insurance plan one of these days! That's one reason I look so excited in this photo -- the others are that it was the opening day of the major league baseball season, and I was about to be served a double IPA.

Jane Moore, National Park Service Fee Program Manager, WASO

Jane has been with the National Park Service for over 30 years. She was born in Monterey, California. She attended Humboldt State University, receiving a degree in Music and a minor in Recreation Studies. Jane has worked at Prince William Forest Park, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and the Washington Office in a variety of capacities including: maintenance, interpretation, special events, cooperative activities, law enforcement, and fees. Jane has worked in Washington as the NPS Fee Program Manager since 1999. Jane oversees a diverse recreation fee collection program which includes: the collection of approximately $170 million in annual revenue at approximately 200 fee collection parks, agency-wide participation in (interagency reservation program), and oversight and management of the interagency pass program. On an international assignment, Jane recently travelled to Rwanda, Africa, to evaluate the fee and tourism program at Nyungwe National Park, one of three Rwandan National Parks. Jane was a founding member and President of the first officially recognized NPS gay and lesbian employee association (GALA-NPS) sanctioned in 1994 by Stan Albright, the Pacific West Regional Director.

photo of Jane Moore
Jane in Rwanda, Africa at Volcanoes National Park with RDB Guides (Rangers), March 2012

a photo of CR Specialist Pat O'Brien

William P. O'Brien, Ph.D., Desert Southwest CESU Cultural Resource Specialist, Intermountain Region, Tucson, AZ

William P. O'Brien, Ph.D. has held positions in the public history field since 1977. He served as: Historic Preservation Officer for the City of Independence, Missouri (1977-1984); Research historian and project team leader for the NPS Intermountain Region and the Denver Service Center (1986 to 1994); Cultural Resource Supervisor for Planning, at the National Park Service's Denver Service Center (1995-1998); and Program Manager for Cultural Resources and National Register Programs,Intermountain Region, Santa Fe/Denver, National Park Service(1998-2001). O'Brien received his training in American history at: Central Missouri State University (BS-1968-1972); the University of Missouri at Kansas City (MA-1976-1979); and at the University of Colorado at Boulder (Ph.D.1986-1994).

In 2001, O'Brien accepted a position with the National Park Service in the Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit (CESU) program as the cultural resource specialist for the Desert Southwest CESU in Tucson, Arizona, where he regularly coordinates a variety of cultural resource initiatives with universities and other partners. He serves on the adjunct faculty through the Southwest Center and Planning programs of the University of Arizona, where he is duty stationed. In addition to specific NPS projects for parks, he now coordinates and supports the Spanish Colonial Missions Initiative and the Warriors Project, research programs dealing with cultural resources in the American West.

photo of Tim Rains

Kyle Pinjuv, Wildlife Technician, Glacier Bay National Park

I am a wildlife technician at Glacier Bay National Park. I began my work in Glacier Bay as a volunteer intern in 2010 earning my graduate degree in environmental studies. After my internship I was offered a seasonal position with the Park Service the following year. For most of my adult life I have been working in beautiful and wild places, but the opportunity to work with wildlife in Glacier Bay was a dream come true. Aside from the beauty of this Park, the community that surrounds it is accepting and open. I have to admit that moving to a small, isolated community as an openly gay man can be intimidating, but my experience has been extremely positive.

I hope to continue working for the Park Service and am proud to share my story. It is humbling to work with a community of people that is working so hard towards equality, acceptance, and awareness.

photo of Tim Rains

Timothy D. Rains, Media Specialist / Arts Coordinator, Denali National Park and Preserve

Tim Rains began his National Park Service career as a seasonal interpreter at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. There, he fell in love with the idea of the small-town Alaskan community and the untouched wilderness that surrounded it. It was this special place that inspired him to move forward in acceptance of his identity and allow him to grow and explore new avenues of life.

Currently, he works at Denali National Park and Preserve where he combines his talents with writing, photography, music, and the arts as one of the Media Specialists for the park. He is also runs the Artist-in-Residence program which gives him the opportunity to connect artists with the Wilderness of Denali. He is active in exploring the outdoors and the local community and incorporating those experiences into his music and art.

photo of Holly Richards

Holly Richards, Park Ranger (Interpretation), Wupatki National Monument

Holly Richards hails from the Great State of Virginia, and she started her career with the NPS by accident. Following graduation from Clemson University, she decided to "kill some time" before graduate school and accepted an internship with the Student Conservation Association working at White Sands National Monument. While working at White Sands, Holly fell in love with the Southwest, the National Park Service, and public lands. Holly has worked for the NPS for five years, and she is currently the Visitor Center Supervisor / Interpretive Ranger at Wupatki National Monument. A couple of times a year, Holly gets to lead overnight backpacking trips to the Crack in the Rock Pueblo at Wupatki; the rest of the time she spends answering email. Holly is engaged to Ranger Erin Huggins who works at the Grand Canyon.

photo of Jane Rodgers

Jane Rodgers, Deputy Chief Science & Resource Management, Grand Canyon National Park

Jane began her career in conservation as a volunteer with the U.S. Peace Corps in Niger, West Africa. Her two years overseas confirmed her desire to work in the realm of restoration ecology and the management of natural ecosystems. In 1994, Jane was offered her first job with the National Park Service at Joshua Tree National Park as nursery work leader, and she was later promoted to the park's vegetation manager. In 2003, she moved to Point Reyes National Seashore as the park’s vegetation ecologist, overseeing rare plant conservation, exotic plant control, restoration of coastal dune habitat, range management, fire ecology, and the California Exotic Plant Management Team. In 2008, she and her partner Kate Peterlein moved to Flagstaff where Jane accepted a job as Grand Canyon National Park's Deputy Chief of Science and Resource Management. Jane continues to love new challenges and working with diverse work teams and park partners. Her mantra is "Do the right thing."

Rebecca Shaffer, Architect, Alaska Regional Office

Becky began her career as a Historical Architect with the Alaska Regional Office in March of 2010. She was primarily assigned to Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Skagway, Alaska, where she led efforts to document two recently donated 100-year-old buildings for the Historic American Building Survey. In October 2010, she was hired permanently as an architect in the Alaska Regional Office's Engineering, Planning and Design Section. In her role as a regional architect, Becky designs new buildings and assesses existing buildings for compliance with accessibility laws, building code, and energy policy. Her projects take place throughout Alaska, including the renovation of an airplane hangar at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, an energy efficiency retrofit of Denali National Park's Hotel Power House, and the installation of new LED theater lighting in the Alaska Public Land Information Center in downtown Anchorage.

photo of Rebecca Shaffer
Becky (standing) and Tessa (on rock)

Becky and Tessa, who is a registered nurse in Anchorage, met in 2006 because they shared a routine of visiting nearby Alaska State Parks to rollerblade and unwind from the workday. Previous to coming to NPS, Becky worked for three years as a District Architect and Sustainability Coordinator for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Alaska, and her project work focused on designing military jet hangars that Tessa could not visit. The National Park Service offered an incredible opportunity to work in national parks. Tessa agrees that working for NPS is the best thing that could happen to two lesbians in Alaska!

photo of David Smith

David Smith, Superintendent, Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site

David and partner John Evans have spent the last twenty years working in a variety of jobs around the National Park Service. For many years, they worked seasonal law enforcement in southern Utah parks. David and John were married in a ceremony in California in 1996. Familiarity with the southwestern deserts and border facilitated a short career change to the U.S. Border Patrol in 1996. David transitioned into interpretation and got his first permanent job as a park ranger at Joshua Tree National Park. Together, they moved to the Bay Area, working for the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail and Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It was there in Oakland that David and John adopted their first two children, Dante and Jakiah. The whole family packed up in 2005 for a move to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. In 2010, David took a job working as the NPS representative to the House Natural Resources committee and moved to D.C. In July of 2011, David was called to his current job.

The Park Service has offered rare opportunities to do and see things that David could have never dreamed of. He has also found that the agency has gone out of its way to make his family feel welcome. Most importantly, they have a community of friends from the Service that has enriched their lives beyond measure

photo of Trouper Snow

Trouper Snow, U.S. Park Ranger (Law Enforcement), Denali National Park & Preserve

Trouper began his career with the NPS in 2004 as a Biological Science Technician for the National Capital Region. Trouper's aspirations were to work in Law Enforcement, and, in 2006, he was selected as a member of the Entry Level Employee Development Program, which led him in the direction of Law Enforcement.

Trouper was raised in North Carolina and attended the University of Alaska where he earned Bachelor's Degrees in Biological Sciences and Physical Anthropology. Today, Trouper has returned to Alaska and is a front country field ranger for Denali National Park & Preserve and is a member of the Regional SET (Special Events Team).

photo of Bernardo Soto

Bernardo Soto, Park Ranger (Law Enforcement), Cape Cod National Seashore

I completed Northern Arizona University's Seasonal Park Ranger Law Enforcement Academy in 2010, Class 19. I completed one year of volunteer work for the Bureau of Land Management at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Las Vegas, Nevada. Currently, I'm an online student of the College of Southern Nevada in Criminal Justice, and I expect to graduate in 2014. In April 2011, I started working in Death Valley National Park as a Generalist Ranger, then I moved into Fees. I'm also a photographer, and one of my accomplishments is a photo that appears on the cover of the 2012 Death Valley Annual Park Pass. I recently accepted my first seasonal law enforcement position at Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts, starting in May 2012.

It is important for me to be an openly gay man, as I may be able to help other people, such as coworkers and park visitors, as well as help to contribute to the workforce.

Favorite saying: "Life is meant for living."

photo of Education Specialist John Warren

John Harlan Warren, Public Affairs Specialist, Gateway National Recreation Area

In 1988, I met the two loves of my life. First, I met Tom, my partner of 24 years. Second, I asked a park ranger at San Antonio Missions National Historical Park how he got his job. Within a year, San Antonio Missions hired me for my first seasonal job. I have stuck with my two loves ever since.

When my partner moved to the Northeast, my NPS career allowed me to follow him here. I worked as a seasonal at Morristown National Historical Park, then took a permanent position at Edison National Historic Site (now Thomas Edison National Historical Park). During my 13 years there, I managed the education program and designed new experiences for students, like making sound recordings on tin foil like Edison did in 1878. Since 2004, I have worked at Gateway National Recreation Area where I switched from designing education programs to public affairs, where I write press releases and serve as webmaster for the park website.

The NPS has always been a welcoming environment for me as an openly gay man, even in Texas in the late 1980s. Today, I work with several employees, including those at high levels, who are openly gay or lesbian, and it's no big deal. The fact that the NPS values our diverse families encourages gay employees like me to live openly so that we can devote our energy to the agency's wonderful mission.

photo of Sandra Washington, Chief of Planning & Compliance

Sändra J. Washington, Associate Regional Director, Planning, Construction, Communication & Legislation

Sändra Washington has worked with the National Park Service since 1990. During her tenure with the agency, Ms. Washington has been involved in numerous special resources studies, park planning and community conservation planning efforts, and her career has included positions as a Community Planner, Outdoor Recreation Planner, Superintendent, Training Manager and Planning and Compliance Chief in addition to her present position.

Ms. Washington has been involved in projects dealing with preservation of cultural sites in rural and urban areas, crafting of management policies and wilderness studies. Over the course of her career, a few projects stand out for mention:

  • Special Resource Studies for Nicodemus, Brown v. Board of Education, and Little Rock Central High School National Historic Sites,
  • NPS Management Policies Task Group
  • General Management Plan for the South Unit of Badlands National Park – with a proposal for the nation’s first Tribal National Park

More recently, Washington was the project manager for the general management plan at Jefferson National Expansion Memorial that led to the successful design competition, redesign and expansion of the Memorial, and has been instrumental in guiding the planning and legislative efforts to create a Tribal National Park with the Oglala Sioux Tribe from the South Unit of Badlands NP. Lastly, Washington’s leadership in creatively melding wilderness studies and comprehensive park planning resulted in wilderness designations at Apostle Islands NL and Pictured Rocks NL, and a strongly supported legislative proposal for wilderness at Sleeping Bear Dunes NL.

Prior to work with the NPS, Sändra spent five years with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Natural Areas and Preserves Division as a field ecologist, working primarily with the inventory and monitoring program, as well as the scenic rivers program and the preparation of ecological management plans. Washington earned Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Environmental Interpretation and Planning and Natural Resources Planning and Policy Analysis at the Ohio State University.

Outside of work, Sändra and her partner, Deb, are parents to a high-energy 6-year old daughter, and she carves out time to volunteer on various school and community projects.

photo of Ranger Christopher Watts

Christopher Watts, Assistant to the Superintendent, National Capital Parks-East

Christopher Watts joined the National Park Service (NPS) in November 2005, after being inspired by trips to the Rocky Mountain National Park and a back-country camping trip at Yosemite National Park. Watts is now assigned to the Superintendent's Office at National Capital Parks-East, a collection of natural and historic sites in Washington, DC and one of the Nation's most diverse urban areas.

Watts's Fundamentals course at Albright was a life changing experience. That transforming moment and his subsequent work caused Watts to be very passionate about the NPS mission and the opportunities NPS offers to all its employees. Of the experience Watts says, "I'm proud to be part of the National Park Service. I'm eager to grow in my embrace and promote the knowledge of our parks and its people and to proudly uphold our Core Values."

photo of Rich Weideman

Rich Weideman, Assistant Director, Partnerships and Civic Engagement, WASO

"I always dreamed of becoming a Park Ranger," said Rich Weideman. As a youth growing up in Montana, his family visited Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks almost every summer. During his senior year in high school, Weideman "decided to definitely set my goal in life to become a National Park Ranger," regardless of my orientation. In college, he worked for the concessions in Yellowstone and Grand Canyon National Parks, respectively, while volunteering for the National Park Service (NPS). Between Weideman's college freshman and sophomore years, to ensure that he was competitive for a ranger job, he joined the U.S. Army on a two-year assignment in Germany. After serving in the Army, he used the GI Bill to finish paying for his college education.

Weideman's first NPS jobs involved work on a trail crew in Yellowstone during the summers of 1977 and 1978. He received his Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Montana, School of Forestry, in June 1981. Two weeks after graduation, Weideman started as a seasonal Park Ranger in Interpretation on Alcatraz Island. The first 28 years of his long NPS career were at Golden Gate National Recreation Area, where he held 7 positions, advancing to Chief of Public Affairs and Special Park Uses. After 28 years in one park, Rich received a promotion to Program Manager in the Washington Office of Partnership and Philanthropic Stewardship arriving in spring 2010. In fall of 2011, Rich received a promotion to Assistant Director, Partnerships and Civic Engagement, where he currently serves. "To work at the national level on park-related needs is a privilege and an honor. We have a great agency with incredible people".

photo of Sierra Willoughby

Sierra Willoughby, Interpretive Park Ranger, Denali National Park and Preserve

Originally from the Sierra Nevada of northern California, Sierra has always loved being outdoors and in the mountains. Consequently, it was fitting that he found his first seasonal position at Mount Rainier National Park in 2001. Working the past 11 years as a seasonal interpretive park ranger with visitors, and helping them get the most out of their visit is what he enjoys most out of working for the National Park Service. In addition to Mount Rainier, Sierra’s ranger adventures have brought him to Yosemite, Santa Monica Mountain, Glacier Bay, and Denali National Parks. He enjoys using his MS in earthquake geology to help park visitors gain an understanding of the powerful forces that shape the landscape of our National Parks. In 2011, Sierra brought his NPS experience to a term position with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as a visitor services specialist in southern Nevada. There he was part of building up a new interpretive, volunteer, and educational program for two refuges. After the term, the green and grey called him back to serve visitors for summer of 2012 in Denali National Park and Preserve, where in addition to his front line interpretive duties, he serves on the Denali Social Media team, and is part of the video project for the Alaska Region LGBT diversity project. Making the NPS a more attractive place for LGBT folks to work and to visit is Sierra’s passion. One of his favorite days as a ranger was serving as the interpretive park ranger on board a gay charter cruise ship that sailed through Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.

On his days off in the summer season, you can find Sierra on an adventure up the icy slopes of Mount Rainier, the tundra ridges of Denali, the forests of Yosemite, or kayaking the waters of Glacier Bay. In the off-season, you might find him on a trip to the Everest region of Nepal, the southern Alps of New Zealand, or more recently, on road trips in his ‘winter seasonal housing’ (a small Toyota RV).

While Sierra loves the travel and adventure of the seasonal lifestyle, the long distance between him and his partner is not easy, so he is hoping to gain more media skills, and find a permanent position in a national park where he and his partner can both live, preferably somewhere mountains and where a thriving LGBT community exists nearby. .

photo of Penny Tibbetts

Penny Tibbetts, Law Enforcement Ranger, Redwood National and State Parks

Hi, my name is Penny Tibbetts, formerly known as Paul. I have been a Law Enforcement Ranger at Redwood National and State Parks since 2002. I am a Male-to-Female Transgender person. I am currently undergoing the lengthy and involved process of Medical Gender Reassignment. I have been publicly out as Transgender since 2014. In retrospect, I have been this way my entire life. I didn’t understand what was so different about me, and was too scared of it to even address it until my 30’s.

People think that we choose to be this way, but that is far from the truth. We do have a choice to live as an angst-ridden and miserable façade of who the world thinks we should be, or find peace and even happiness as our “True Selves”, but most would agree that is hardly a choice. Coming out is a terrifying time for most of us, as we are largely misunderstood, marginalized and even targeted for violence. This is unacceptable to me, and I share my story with you for a reason. In my humble opinion, I believe that if Transgender people remain in the shadows out of fear, people will think we belong there. We are not mentally ill, “Freaks”, “Perverts” or “Child Molesters” We are your family members, friends, neighbors, colleagues and in my case, your protector. We can be Software Engineers, Physicians, Fire Captains, Architects, Olympic Champions and even Navy SEALS.

I have done intense law enforcement work most of my career in the NPS, including interdicting and investigating large scale Cannabis Cultivation, perpetrated by Transnational Criminal Organizations in 4 separate National Parks. These Cultivation Sites are extremely dangerous to the public, and wreak environmental havoc on our Public Lands. I was commended in 2004 for playing an integral role in neutralizing a murderous, child molesting madman with a rifle, even spilling blood doing so. I was an Honor Graduate of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in 2007. I have earned the respect of my fellow officers, both in NPS and Allied Agencies.

I was compelled toward the Redwood Coast of California since I first visited in 1998. I graduated Humboldt State University in 2005, taking a BA in Geography. My love of surfing was part of what led me to the Redwood Coast. It is a rugged and extremely beautiful place, as well as laden with powerful, challenging and often uncrowded cold water waves. Surfing also instilled in me a love and natural stewardship for nature. I have been surfing around the world in places as diverse as Nicaragua, Indonesia, Western Samoa and British Columbia.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I hope that you might think a little better of Transgender people now.

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Check Out LGBT Pride Month in the Alaska Region!

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