• bible sitting next to a teapot

    Whitman Mission

    National Historic Site Washington

The Herrera Years (1987- )

 

Although superintendent for only six months at the close of 1987 and the completion of this study, Dave Herrera already has clear ideas about his role at Whitman Mission and the park's direction. The following summarizes a few of those ideas and future plans.

David P. Herrera entered on duty as superintendent in May 1987. Before transferring to Whitman Mission, Herrera served in the National Park Service, Midwest Regional Office in Omaha, Nebraska, at Pipestone National Monument in Minnesota and, immediately prior to coming to Walla Walla, at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan. His initial impression of Whitman Mission is one of a peaceful, tranquil place that easily lends itself to historical reflection. As superintendent of this "interesting little place," [194] Herrera plans to both facilitate change and rely on his staff to bring projects to completion: "My role here is to try and suggest improvements, try and point the direction that I think we should take and [work] with the staff to get our normal business done." [195]

Superintendent Herrera believes it is important to communicate with his entire staff in order to create a pleasant, productive work environment. Fortunately, the park's small size encourages this "open atmosphere":

We have regular meetings . . . once a week but we meet all the time around here to talk about problems or to exchange information . . . and I try not to talk to just a few people, I like to talk to everyone on the staff. [196]

Superintendent Herrera's effort to develop a good relationship with his staff will undoubtedly help him manage the current projects that were instituted under the previous administration. When asked to describe the major issues currently facing Whitman Mission, Superintendent Herrera listed the revegetation project, remodeling the new museum, resurfacing the access road, and replacing the visitor center roof and heating system. Besides managing these projects, Herrera does not foresee many further changes in the park for at least ten years, other than growing rye grass around the grounds. "I see the park staying essentially the way it is for many years to come," he said. [197]

Although the facilities are simple and interpretive devices sparse, Herrera essentially feels that "less is more": "I think [the park] is really good the way it is . . . even though, in some people's opinion we don't have much here . . . just a little bit of interpretation can stimulate very strong feelings in visitors . . . . " [198]

Herrera predicts that future activities will include developing a videotape of the Whitman story and encouraging a television program or even a full-length movie about the Whitmans. Thus, Superintendent Herrera's focus will be "maintaining what we have and finding more creative ways to tell the Whitman story." [199]

 

Did You Know?

Oregon Trail Wagon

Wagons used on the Oregon Trail had to carry nearly 2000 pounds of supplies. They traveled 2000 miles or more to the Oregon Country. Most wagons were pulled by oxen as they could eat the prairie grass and survive without lots of food for lengthy periods.