Joan Anzelmo, a native of Washington, D.C., graduate of the University of Maryland, and a 35-year career public servant with the National Park Service, has announced her plans to retire on July 1st from her position as superintendent of Colorado National Monument, where she has served since May 2007.
Anzelmo has previously served in senior agency spokesperson roles at Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, at the National Interagency Fire Center (BLM) in Boise, Idaho. and for the NPS director in Washington, D.C. Other earlier assignments included park manager at Great Falls Park in Virginia and visitor services chief at the National Visitor Center in Washington, D.C., where she began her National Park Service career in 1976.
Anzelmo was the National Park Service spokesperson throughout the now historic 1988 Yellowstone Fires in an era before the internet and cell phones. She worked around the clock to assist many hundreds of news media arriving from around the globe to cover the fires throughout that long summer. Through that work, she became a nationally acknowledged expert in crisis communications and was subsequently dispatched to some of the country’s most complex wildland fire situations and other national emergencies. Last May, she was assigned to the unified area command for the National Park Service in response to the BP oil spill.
During her tenure, Anzelmo became a trusted advisor to many senior officials across multiple administrations, helping prepare them to conduct national news interviews, press conferences and deliver public statements during national emergencies.
Anzelmo has assisted with planning and coordination for multiple presidential visits to various national parks throughout the Unites States for every President during her federal tenure, including directly briefing several Presidents during their visits.
Throughout her public affairs career she worked tirelessly to provide information for the public and the news media, including during extreme emergencies and in controversial situations, always advocating for the public’s right to know. In 2006, Anzelmo challenged the agency for its sudden unexplained decision to withhold names of individuals who parks assisted through search and rescues or who were involved in serious accidents or fatalities that required NPS emergency response. This was a departure from previous well established policy and was causing confusion in numerous communities. As a result of her initiative, the agency’s director issued a new policy to clarify the release of names and to this day parks reference this policy.
Over the span of her career, Anzelmo has been tasked by her agency to coordinate large scale special events, including the bicentennial celebrations at Yorktown, the NPS staffed exhibits at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, the 75th anniversary celebrations of the National Park Service in Yellowstone National Park, the 50th anniversary for Grand Teton National Park, and, just recently, the centennial celebrations at her current park, Colorado National Monument, along with countless other large scale national events.
She chaired the National Park Service 2008 Superintendents Summit, with more than 500 participants, at the director’s request. Twenty years prior, she coordinated the 1988 national superintendents’ conference held in Grand Teton National Park for approximately 700 people.
She has represented the United States at tourism conferences in France and Italy and has been active in tourism throughout her career. Joan is conversant in French, Spanish and Italian. She lived in Switzerland as a college freshman and completed her bachelors degree in French at the University of Maryland in 1975.
At Colorado National Monument, she is credited with helping increase park visitation, entrance station revenues, and bookstore sales. She has emphasized visitor and employee safety, created a share the road campaign, and reduced crime, suicides and vandalism. She has enabled the monument to expand curriculum based educational field trips for District 51 students and increased overall visitor services for the public. She established a trails improvement program for the first time in decades and led other major infrastructure improvements. She has been a great partner to tourism and worked collaboratively to balance requests for special events such as Ride the Rockies cycling tour and the Rim Rock Marathon while still protecting park resources and not overly impacting visitor experiences with special events.
Anzelmo will finish her career after successfully planning and executing several of the centennial celebrations for Colorado National Monument, beginning with the once in a century fireworks display on Rim Rock Drive last December 31st and the recent signature anniversary celebration on May 21st for 600 people.
She is the recipient of numerous awards. including two of the Department of the Interior’s highest honors, the Superior Service and Meritorious Service awards.
Anzelmo, a single mother, raised her daughter Jenny, primarily in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Jenny just graduated from Lynchburg College in Virginia and is herself returning to Grand Teton National Park for a job in the park’s public affairs office. where she has worked the last two summers.
Upon retirement from her position in Colorado, Anzelmo plans to return to Jackson, Wyoming to live. She looks forward to living in proximity to her daughter after eight years apart and reacquainting with her beloved Teton Mountains and the many lifelong friends she holds so dear.
Last updated: February 24, 2015