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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, July 24, 2024


The search is under way for a new Virgin Islands National Park superintendent to succeed Russell Berry Jr., who retired from the National Park Service and left the territory on July 23 after holding the position for just under three years.
Acting Supt. Judy Shafer, who was deputy superintendent under Berry for the last two years, said she understands "there were 45 applicants" for the position. The National Park Service search procedures follow specific steps, and "it can take months" to fill a superintendent vacancy, she said.
Notice of the anticipated vacancy in the Virgin Islands was posted on the Internet on the NPS website, and acceptance of applications closed on July 17. At the end of the candidate review process, the regional director makes the decision, subject to approval by the NPS national director and the assistant secretary of the Interior Department for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
. It's to the territory's advantage, Shafer said, that the current park service director, Robert Stanton, is very familiar with the V.I. National Park, having served as its superintendent in 1971-74 before becoming deputy director of the Southeast Region, which includes the Virgin Islands. Having retired from the park service, Stanton was tapped by President Clinton to become its director in 1997, becoming the first African-American to hold the position.
National Park Service jobs are Civil Service positions within the federal government. "Competition for jobs is keen," the NPS website notes. "One must be very well qualified to be seriously considered."
The main criteria in the selection of Berry's successor will be the candidates' demonstrated qualifications for the position of superintendent in general and of the V.I. National Park in particular. "There's no exam at this grade level," Shafer said.
As far as St. John administrator Julien Harley is concerned, "The key is that it needs to be somebody who is going to work with the St. John community. The reality is that the national park has most of St. John, and what affects the park affects St. John. There must be some kind of unity." The other quality he hopes to see in the new superintendent, he said, is that, "when he says something, he means it."
A good working relationship depends on "harmony and sharing," Harley said. "I have always had a good relationship with the national park, going back to when I was with the Fire Department."
Given those expectations, Harley said, he would have "no problem with if it's a him or a her, if it's a black or a white." Whoever is chosen, he pledged, "I will do my utmost to help see that there will be a smooth transition."
Some months ago, Harley recalled, he had a discussion with the NPS director when there was talk in the community of Beulah Dalmida-Smith being considered to succeed Berry, whose pending retirement had been announced well in advance. Dalmida-Smith had just returned to the V.I. National Park staff after having served as Planning and Natural Resources Department commissioner in the Schneider administration.
Harley said he was told that in order for a St. John park employee to become superintendent of the park, that person "would have to be a superintendent someplace else first." He said he accepted that "that's the policy and it's been working for them, not just here but nationwide." But, he added, "It would be nice for somebody local to be second in command."
Shafer, who is among those who have applied for the position, said the sizable number of applicants is a good sign that the V.I. National Park "is finally getting the recognition it deserves."
Not too many years ago, "It was hard to find applicants," she said. "The regional director used to have to beat the bushes to find candidates."
One reason the V.I. park is more attractive now to career NPS administrators, Shafer said, is the "basic increase" recently in its overall budget. Congress approved a $750,000 increase for fiscal year 2000, and the administration's budget includes an increase of $1 million for f.y. 2001. "That represents an increase in the park budget of 67 percent in less than three years," she said.

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