[intro music] Dave: Welcome to My Park Story, presented by the National Park Service. People form connections with their favorite national parks and programs, and this park-cast is a place to come together and share those stories. I’m your host, Dave Barak. Today's guest is Officer Shelby Barbay of Grand Teton National Park.
[intro music fades out] Dave: Hello, and welcome to Officer Shelby Barbay of Grand Teton National Park. Hey, Shelby, how are you? Shelby: Good morning. I'm doing well, Dave, how are you?
Dave: I'm doing all right as well. Thank you so much for joining us today. This is an exciting time to talk to one of our law enforcement Rangers and I'm really eager to hear your story. Shelby: Yeah, thank you and super happy to be here and thanks for the for the honor to to come and have this opportunity. I was born and raised in upstate, or central, New York State in a town called Waterloo. I went to college, Utica College, now Utica University, which is about an hour and a half away from home. I went to college mostly to play lacrosse and I thought, how am I going to pay for this, right, as most of us millennials do, as we were approaching those college years.
Shelby: I had intended to enlist in the Army. And at that point it was like, well, I want to go to college, I want to play lacrosse. What else can I do? And I, you know, and heard about the Reserve Officer Training Corps, ROTC program. So I went to college and played lacrosse and I did get a degree and I did the ROTC thing. I commissioned the Army in 2012 when I was done with college, and I spent about four years in change in the US Army. I was stationed at Fort Wainwright, which is in Fairbanks, AK. And I got out in 2016 and started pursuing a career for the National Park Service as a law enforcement Ranger. And that's from 2017 until now.
Dave: Yeah, I know you had other options when you were making the decision to leave the military. What made you choose the Park Service over some of those other options? Shelby: When I was getting out of the military, I had looked into things like Alaska State Troopers, the FBI and a couple other agencies some back closer to home. And a friend came to me, who had previously been a sawyer and worked in, he does still currently work- he works for the Forest Service in wildland fire. And he's like, “Hey, what about being a park ranger, check out the Park Service or, you know, the Forest Service.” And I was like, “Oh, what's it about?” He's like, “Well, you're military police, like it's it's policing, but you know, you're doing it and the the great outdoors, more or less, right out here in the in the parks.” And so I looked into it and I was like, man, that sounds awesome.
Shelby: So I, yeah, chose the parks. There was figured like, why not give it a try. Went to seasonal academy in Flagstaff, AZ at Northern Arizona University and kind of went from there. Dave: Cool. And what parks have you worked at before you landed at Grand Teton?
Shelby: So I have worked, I worked two seasons. The first season was at the Flagstaff Area National Monumenst, which consists of Walnut Canyon, Wupatki National Monument and then Sunset Crater- and those are all managed under one management team there. Then I worked at Crater Lake in Oregon, that was my second season, 2018. I was picked up permanently, a VRA hire Denali National Park in Alaska, so went back to Alaska again. From there I moved down here to Grant Tetown about two years ago.
Dave: Very cool. That's really cool. The Park Service is attempting to diversify the ranks of its law enforcement staff and officers, specifically bringing in more women officers to the force, and that's why I was excited to talk to you. But have you found as a woman on the force, did you have mentors that you looked up to that helped guide you along? Because I think that's so important. Shelby: It's ever since my first season, I have met and I have identified, I have probably a list of role models, women and men. But I remember meeting the first woman, you know, other ranger, other officer in the agency in my first season there at Flag Monuments. And she was in working at Lake Mead. I had gone on there to do some training. Hannah's Jensen, formerly Hannah Orc. And I just was like, wow, like, this is what I could be one day. You know, like, Hannah's amazing. She's so squared away. She's been there and done that, done everything. She's got every qualification. She's just like, she's amazing. To this day, I still call her or text her, you know, ask her for help. Same with my second season at Crater Lake. I met Caitlin Schauer. And again, it was just like, wow, like, this is what I could be one day, you know, and kind of went from there. I mean, I I have a lot of role models that I look up to. I remember when I was offered and accepted the job here at Grand Teton, I was like, Oh my gosh, Liz Tetter works at Grand Teton. Like, Liz, everyone knows Liz Tedder. She's amazing, you know. And so now she's like, you know, a good friend of mine. And it just was funny to me just, you know, you meet these people and and you idolize them and you, you know, you look up to them and it's everything from career advice to you'll be on the side of the road working through a law enforcement investigation and just having those kind of guide you along. And my chief here at Teton is a woman and she was the same chief I had at at Denali and she was amazing. Yes. No shortage of of role models is the short, short answer to your question. Dave: Right. Well, that's really heartening. And I know that you yourself have taken other newer officers under your wing. What is it like to be on the other side of that to, you know, now people are going to be like Shelby Barbay, she's a legend.
Dave: Like, I got to work with Shelby and like, she's, she's the best. Like people like you're talking about the rangers and the officers you look up to. Shelby: Yeah, right. Gosh, I don't know, it's humbling. It's, you know, I think that in this job, especially being a woman, especially being in law enforcement, you know, people look to us a lot for answers, for information like the public, of course, look to us, you know, But then you have newer officers like you said that I look to and it's hard, it's difficult to explain. I would say, like we just, we don't, You don't always understand the impact or the power you have. Not an authoritative kind of power, but the power to change someone's life. So you know, when I get these folks that I try to mentor or help or even just give my number to to be like, hey, if you ever think about joining the Park Service, you want to be law enforcement, you want to be a cop, you know, here's my number, give me a call, give me an e-mail, whatever it is. It's a really great feeling because I told myself growing up, I had always met amazing mentors and role models. My father being one, my lacrosse coaches, my high school coach, my college coach, my cadre, different cadre I had in the military like all these people. And I was like, I got to pay it forward and all these people that changed my life. And so now, you know, we don't always get that feedback from people that we interact with, but you still do your best to, you know, change and impact someone's life. And I can just say that from a couple experiences I've had, being able to be that mentor, that role model, whether it's for visitors or younger officers, and it just, it just fills your cup, right? It just fills your cup. You're just like on cloud nine, you're you're just glowing for. For me, it's like, you know, weeks on end, and my mood's just great. I'm in a happy place and I feel good and I feel like I'm helping improve, you know, helping prepare them for their career and helping improve the agency as a whole.
Dave: Nice, Nice. I know you had a piece of advice that one of your mentors gave you that you wanted to share.
Shelby: Yeah, the thing that is something that I kind of I try to live by is a phrase that a boss of mine- before I got out of the army, I worked for. He always said to people he's like don't take ‘no’ for an answer and you know he he didn't mean it in the way of like oh you know mom or dad said ‘no’ go ask, you know, the other one, he didn't mean it like that. He just meant, like, find someone to tell you ‘yes,’ and find someone to to allow you to pursue whatever it is you're pursuing. So for me, I try to tell a lot of young folks that think it's like, you know, I mentioned before the power and impact you have as an officer or as somebody in authority or someone who's a leader ,designated or otherwise. And sometimes we don't realize that power impact we have on people. And so when we say things we might not think are, you know, impactful, like, you just can't underestimate the word, the power of words sometimes and find someone to tell you ‘yes,’ don't take ‘no’ for an answer. That just was like an affirmation for me of like, this is my dream, this is my goal, this is what I want to do, and I will do anything. And until I find the person to tell me ‘yes.’ And ultimately, it was, that was a lot of how I got into this agency was, I went from the military, it was an officer, I got out. I could have, you know, been hired a higher grade or gone more of a direct route. I didn't know that the time and I remember being offered my first permanent job- nd I told the individual, “I'm going to come work for you, whether it's now or whether it's in a few years from now, when I have more experience like I'm going to come work for you.” I just let that drive, that passion, that willingness to be persistent in work and and not let people's words or actions deter you, right?
Shelby: Yeah, so that's my advice...
Dave: That’s special.
Shelby: ...or advice I had received. Dave: Well, much like the mentors and the leaders that came before you that you look up to passing down these vital words, this precious message to you, Now you're passing it along to to others. And I'm grateful to have been the recipient of your wisdom and just your smile and your enthusiasm. And I'm really grateful to call you a colleague. Shelby, thank you so much, so much for joining us today and we'll talk soon.
Shelby: All right. Thank you, sir.
After leaving the army, Shelby Barbay had many career options. Hear why she chose the National Park Service, and how her mentors have inspired her to be a better ranger and to pass on that mentorship to others.