Intermountain Regional Director Sue Masica announced today that David Vela has been named superintendent of Grand Teton National Park. He will begin his duties in about six weeks.
Vela now serves as associate director for Workforce, Relevancy and Inclusion in the National Park Service's (NPS) Washington headquarters. He oversees NPS programs including Human Resources, Learning and Development, Equal Opportunity, Youth, and the Office of Relevancy, Diversity & Inclusion.
"David has a great blend of senior management experience both within and outside of the Park Service, including an extensive and proven record of achievement in managing large and complex park operations," Masica said. "He has also had great success in working with partners and local communities, and he is especially passionate about making our national parks more relevant to diverse populations."
As superintendent, Vela will manage more than 310,000 acres of park lands, including the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway and much of the iconic Teton Range, whose jagged peaks and distinctive geology make it a classic vista of the American West. Also iconic are Grand Teton's diverse wild species, including grizzly bears, gray wolves and American bison. The park and parkway protect 51 miles of wild and scenic rivers and a cherished assortment of significant cultural resources and historic objects, including 19th-century ranch structures.\
Before his time in Washington, Vela served four years as director of the NPS's Southeast Region, where he oversaw 66 national park sites in nine states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Vela began his NPS career in 1981 as a cooperative education student at San Antonio Missions National Historical Park in Texas and later became a permanent park ranger there. In 1984, he transferred to Appomattox Court House National Historical Park in Virginia to serve as supervisory park ranger. Two years later, he moved to Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia as a district ranger.
From 1987 to 1998, Vela worked in a variety of federal posts outside the NPS. He was a special agent in the Department of Health & Human Services Inspector General's office, conducting white-collar criminal investigations in New York and New Jersey. He also was special assistant for Hispanic affairs to the late U.S. Rep. George Thomas "Mickey" Leland of Texas. He was a federal investigator for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In 1996, the Texas attorney general appointed Vela director of Texas Child Support Program, where he supervised more than 70 field offices and 2,400 employees.
Vela returned to the National Park Service in 1998 as superintendent of Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site in Texas, one of eight states in the Intermountain Region. In 2002, he became Texas state coordinator for the region. After a stint as superintendent of Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in Texas, he transferred in 2006 to George Washington Memorial Parkway in the Washington, DC area.
"I am humbled at the opportunity to serve as superintendent of Grand Teton and the Rockefeller Memorial Parkway," Vela said. "I look forward eagerly to working with the parks' dedicated staff, the local community, and the many partners who care so deeply about these park treasures. It is truly a spectacular place and one that provides inspiration and enjoyment for current and future generations to come" said Vela.
Vela is a graduate of Texas A&M University, with a Bachelor of Science degree in recreation and parks. He graduated from the U.S. Department of the Interior Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program in May 2006. He and his wife, Melissa, have two children, Christina and Anthony, and four grandchildren.
Did You Know?
Did you know that Jenny and Leigh Lakes are named for the fur trapper “Beaver” Dick Leigh and his wife Jenny (not pictured)? Beaver Dick and Jenny assisted the Hayden party that explored the region in 1872. This couple impressed the explorers to the extent that they named the lakes in their honor.