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Carlsbad Caverns Gets New Superintendent
CARLSBAD, New Mexico - Being a native of El Paso, Texas, Dennis Vásquez felt like he came "home" when he moved back to the Chihuahuan desert from the East Coast. Vásquez, Superintendent of Guadalupe Mountains National Park, has accepted a dual-role of managing Guadalupe Mountains National Park and it's "sister park," Carlsbad Caverns National Park, during a 120-day detail that he expects to be "fulfilling and challenging."
Even though Vásquez has visited more than 200 of the 401 national park properties, Carlsbad Caverns National Park was the first park he visited as a child. He has fond memories of coming to the caverns and touring with his family. "I feel honored to be back in Carlsbad Caverns managing this park when this is where my love of national parks started," he said. "Plus, my brothers and father think it's really special that I've returned to the first park we ever visited."
Vásquez has worked in Guadalupe Mountains National Park since 2011, when he came from Washington DC where he served as Program Manager for the National Museum of the American Latino Commission for two years.
Having spent more than 30 years with the Park Service, Vásquez has held a variety of positions including five years as Superintendent of Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Kansas. He also served as Superintendent at two New Mexico parks, Bandelier National Monument in northern New Mexico as well as White Sands National Monument in the central part of the state.
Vásquez worked as a service wide training manager at the Horace Albright Employee Development Center in Grand Canyon National Park, a trustee at Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico and in West Virginia at a National Park Service Interpretive Media training center, Harper's Ferry Center. In addition, Vásquez has spent time as chief naturalist in Big Bend National Park in Texas and a district ranger at Sunset Crater-Wupatki National Monument in Arizona.
Vásquez started his career as a park ranger, in 1977, at White Sands National Monument when he earned his bachelor's degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Texas at El Paso. After nine years at White Sands he moved to Yosemite National Park in California where he became a supervisory park ranger, then to Joshua Tree National Park, also in California, in the same capacity.
"Being in the field is my favorite part of being a ranger," Vásquez said recently while hiking in Guadalupe National Park. "I have gained such a full range of experience working for the Park Service and thoroughly enjoy being out in the resource."
Vásquez said he's really looking forward to the chance to learn Carlsbad Caverns National Park and all it has to offer – above and below ground. "I'm really looking forward to the challenges that managing two parks will bring." A permanent superintendent will be chosen from a pool of candidates sometime at the beginning of 2014.
Vásquez makes his permanent home outside of Albuquerque with his wife, Lynn. During his workweek he lives in the parks he manages "I have the best of both worlds, we have a beautiful home in northern New Mexico, where I will eventually retire, but for now I get to experience the majesty of our national parks while I'm working."