Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow will assume a temporary detail overseeing the National Park Service’s Alaska region beginning April 25, an administrative shake-up that comes just as Glacier debuts its new ticketed entry system and braces for a summer widely predicted to be its busiest on record.
Mow announced the decision on April 12 in an email to Glacier Park employees, explaining the detail is only a temporary reassignment pending appointment of a permanent director in Alaska, where the National Park Service (NPS) oversees 17 national parks, preserves, monuments, and national historical parks.
“With a new administration coming onboard there is always a period of transition until permanent positions in leadership are filled,” Mow wrote in the email, which the Beacon obtained. “Some of you will remember that just over 3 years ago I served in a 4-month detail as a Deputy Regional Director in Denver when regional directors were rotating through the Director’s office. I don’t expect that my personal interests will line up with accepting the position for anything longer than the detail.”
Gina Kerzman, public information officer for Glacier National Park, said temporary details like the one Mow has been assigned typically last 120 days. She said numerous positions in the National Park Service’s leadership ranks have remained vacant for years.
“When there are vacancies like that, the agency relies on senior leaders to help fill those positions,” Kerzman said. “Jeff is one of those senior leaders.”
Still, the timing isn’t ideal for a round of administrative musical chairs, Mow conceded, particularly as it occurs amid a pandemic and just as the park prepares to launch a ticketed reservation system in an effort to ease congestion along Going-to-the-Sun Road, where record-breaking crowds are expected to converge this summer.
Leading Glacier Park in Mow’s stead this summer will be Deputy Glacier Park Superintendent Pete Webster, while a temporary promotion opportunity will be made available to Glacier Park staff members interested in filling Webster’s position. Meanwhile, given the ongoing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mow will oversee the Alaska region and its 15 NPS units remotely, from his home in Whitefish.
“I recognize that the timing of this detail is difficult for Glacier NP given the preparations underway for implementing a new ticketed entry system,” Mow wrote. “The superintendent’s office and many of you have been actively engaged in standing up the new system and I will continue to provide advice and support to Pete and the park’s leadership team with this summer’s operation as my duties will allow.”
Indeed, Glacier is not alone this summer in piloting managed entry systems, with managers at Yosemite, Rocky Mountain Acadia, and Zion national parks all announcing similar programs in anticipation of record-breaking summer visitation. Superintendents from those parks formed a group to share best practices and lessons learned throughout the summer, Mow said.
“What we learn at Glacier NP this summer will be a huge benefit to the entire NPS with regards to visitor use management,” Mow wrote. “Rest assured that during this detail I will be advocating for the park’s issues and challenges within the leadership of the NPS.”
According to Mow, the news of his new detail was made official on April 12 when Shawn Benge, the acting director of NPS, emailed employees of the Alaska region to fill them in. In the email, Benge explained that Mow was on deck to replace Denali National Park and Preserve Superintendent Don Striker in the acting position, a detail Striker has filled for the past 18 months before returning to the helm at Denali.
Mow was named superintendent of Glacier Park in June 2013, but prior to that he spent 23 years with the NPS in Alaska, most recently serving as superintendent of Kenai Fjords National Park, as well as acting superintendent at Denali. He also oversaw other duty stations at Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.
During Mow’s tenure in Alaska, he was actively engaged in the local communities, serving as the mayor of Bettles, Alaska, and as the Rotary Club President in Seward. During the 110th Congress, from 2007 to 2009, Mow lived in Washington, D.C. as an NPS Bevinetto Fellow, working on the Parks Subcommittee of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and with the NPS Office of Legislative and Congressional Affairs.
According to Benge, filling the permanent Alaska Regional Director “is a priority and we hope to begin recruiting for the position soon.”
“Until then, I have complete confidence in the strong and capable leadership team in the region. Please join me in welcoming Jeff (virtually) back to Alaska for this detail,” Benge wrote.