This Project Manager Thrives on High Operational Tempo

Mike Morelli standing in front of the Washington Monument
Mike Morelli standing in front of the Washington Monument at the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington D.C.

What is your name and job title? Michael Morelli, Project Manager with the Denver Service Center’s Design and Construction Division.

What experience and education do you have? I grew up in Los Angeles, California, and completed my undergraduate degree in Architectural and Environmental Design (BA) at San Diego State University. I became interested in landscape architecture (LA) while working part-time my senior year for a local landscape architect in Point Loma. I then decided to apply for graduate studies and attended Louisiana State University’s Graduate School of Design, where I completed the Master of Landscape Architecture program (MLA) in 1977. I am also a retired Captain with the Civil Engineer Corps, United States Navy.

Moving to Denver, I began working for the Landplan Design Group, Inc, a small eight-person LA firm that specialized in parks and recreation planning and design. In 1980, I started my own firm with a partner, Design Studios West, Inc., which also focused on parks and recreation planning and design, community planning, facilities master planning, urban parks/streetscapes, and land use planning.

Because of my love and interest in public parks and recreation work, I joined the Denver Service Center (DSC) in 1989 as a term GS-9 landscape architect in the Western Team Planning Branch, working on general management plans, Development Concept Plans and Environmental Compliance projects.

During DSC’s reorganization in 1999, I returned to the private sector before returning to the NPS with the Planning Facilities Management Division’s Washington Office Transportation Management Program in 2004. In January 2007, I once again joined the DSC Design and Construction Division.

What is a typical day like? As a project manager, most days involve various design or construction meetings with architect and engineering teams, construction contractor’s, and park staff, working through challenges in order to keep the project work on schedule. Other tasks, such as preparing scopes of work, estimates, request for proposals, document reviews, etc. fill out the remainder of a typical day. This requires a weekly “To Do List” so that I can track my high priority tasks. One of the things that I enjoy about working at DSC is the high “operational tempo” that we work in, constantly keeping me on my toes.

What career advice would you give to someone who wants to follow a similar path? I feel that some of our best project managers and specialists are those that come into the NPS after having spent some time working in the private sector, where they gain valuable planning, design and construction experience within the profession. I always enjoy talking with other professionals about the great projects and unique environments that we are involved with, and how the opportunities at DSC are unlike any other office experience that a design professional could expect.

What is one of the bigger projects you are working on and what about that project might surprise people? I am currently working on a joint, co-managed construction project at the Washington Monument. It includes the repair, upgrade and modernization of the Monument elevator system, and replacing the Visitor Screening Facility. This is my second project at this site, as I also managed the Washington Monument Earthquake Damage Repairs from 2011-2013. An interesting aspect of the Monument is the presence of historic “graffiti” within the inside stone components of the Pyramidion, which include the engraved names of the some of the original stone masons that built that structure during the 1800’s.

Anything else you'd like to add? I feel that DSC has some of the most experienced, talented, and knowledgeable group of professionals who are dedicated to preserving and protecting the many special places that are part of the NPS, and I am constantly learning new things from this group. I also like to talk to the various design A/E’s and construction contractors about the idea that we are a “team,” and my job is help them complete the work on our projects so that everyone can share in the success of a job well done.

Last updated: August 9, 2018