ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Stuart West, chief ranger here for the past 10 years, is leaving at the end of this month to become superintendent of three National Park Service (NPS) sites in the West.
They are Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site and Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, both in southeastern Colorado, and Capulin Volcano National Monument in northeastern New Mexico. The three parks are known collectively as the High Plains Group.
West had been set to leave the chief ranger’s job next April because the mandatory retirement age for federal law enforcement personnel is 57. But the opportunity to lead the High Plains Group of parks moved up his departure from Acadia.
“My long-term goal always has been to become a superintendent,” he said, “probably from the day I started with the park service.”
That was more than 30 years ago. He has been at Acadia for nearly 16 years.
“Working in Acadia is probably the most humbling experience you can have,” West said. “In every division and at every level here, there is amazing talent. Some of the people in the various fields here are the best in the country. There’s probably not a day that goes by that I don’t learn something from somebody. It’s been great.”
Deputy Superintendent Mike Madell, who West reports to, described him as “an outstanding chief ranger, employee and person.”
“He is very steady and has a calming influence in dealing with people, which is very good for someone in his position,” Madell said. “He runs into some fairly upset individuals on a fairly regular basis, and he has a real talent for calming things down.”
The chief ranger at Acadia is in charge of law enforcement, wild land firefighting, EMS, search and rescue, lifeguards, entrance fee collection and campground operations, and Madell said West advocates effectively for all of those programs.
“But more importantly, Stuart has a very holistic picture of the park. He understands the interactions of the programs and why it’s important for everybody to work together.”
Madell said West will do a good job as superintendent of the three parks in the West.
“He works with the community really well, which is a central part of the superintendent’s job. I have no doubt he’ll excel at that.”
Describing the NPS’s human resources process as “methodical,” Madell said West’s successor as chief ranger probably would not be on the job until after the first of the year. He said Deputy Chief Ranger Therese Picard will be acting chief ranger for at least the next couple of months.
Asked what he is proudest of having accomplished as Acadia’s chief ranger, West said, “Most recently, I think it was developing partnerships with the local police and fire departments and EMS providers. That hadn’t been in place before.
“They are great folks to work with; I have the highest respect for all of them. And getting a formal agreement on paper I feel was a good accomplishment.”
The three parks that West will be heading are much smaller than Acadia and have far few visitors.
“But no matter where you go, no matter what size the park is, there are going to be challenges,” he said. “That’s what makes the job interesting.”