Top Smokies officials receive honors at conference

During the National Park Service’s Southeast Region Leadership Conference in Atlanta, Ga., two top officials at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park received recognition for significant accomplishments in 2009.

Superintendent Dale Ditmanson received the National Park Service (NPS) Southeast Region’s (SERO) Superintendent of the Year Award. Administrative Officer Donna Losson received the SERO Park Employee of the Year Award for her exceptional contributions to the region’s reorganization of administrative operations and human resource services. The Southeast Region encompasses 66 National Park Service sites across nine states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. With over 60 million visitors annually it is the Service’s-most visited region.

Ditmanson’s selection was based on a considerable number of highly successful events, programs and collaborations that were developed and implemented over the year. A few of his noteworthy accomplishments are highlighted below:

The Park’s 75th anniversary year-long celebration resulted in many successful events and positive outcomes as a direct result of Dale’s vision and guidance. “Using his 30-plus years of widely varied NPS experience, Dale orchestrated the Park’s planning and implementation of the Park’s major events and projects. The product of these activities, and of those 100-plus events in the outlying areas, went a long way to strengthen and bridge relationships with Park constituents. These efforts served to enrich and deepen the understanding of the Park, inspiring stewardship of the Park for the next 75 years and beyond,” commented David Vela, NPS SERO Director.

A marked achievement was the resolution of a highly controversial road construction issue along the north shore of Fontana Dam in Swain County, NC. The nomination cited that Ditmanson guided the Park through a complex process that resulted in a decision that put to rest the potential for construction of a 28-34 mile road through a pristine area of the Park. “Future generations along with the significant biological and cultural resources of this Park, will reap the benefits of this outcome,” said Vela.

The Park received significant funding from a combination of revenue sources, including $80 million provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, for facility and road rehabilitation projects, by far the largest and most aggressive rehabilitation effort in the Park’s history. “Due to Dale’s vision and understanding of the extraordinary opportunity at hand, he led his management staff to take the necessary actions to compete for these funding sources, as well as guiding the steps to prepare for the multitude of projects,” Vela continued. In addition, he worked with the Park’s major partners to garner their financial support for construction of a new 7,000-square foot visitor center at Oconaluftee, near the Cherokee, N.C. entrance.

Donna Losson was recognized for her outstanding leadership in the development and implementation of the National Park Service Southeast Region Administrative Service Units and in Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s Administrative Program and the planning and execution of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects.

Losson was heavily involved in the restructuring of the SERO’s administrative programs. She was in the forefront of discussions regarding the reorganization and consolidation of these services within the 60-plus park units in the region. The region centralized its contract, procurement and human resource functions into several lead park units, including the Smokies, to streamline its processes by sharing staff and resources.

In addition, Losson served as the lead north administrative services unit comprised of the Smokies and five other park areas. As the principal administrator, she provided advice and guidance in human resources and contracting services to these parks. “At the same time as her involvement in the region’s restructuring, Donna led Great Smoky Mountains National Park through its own reformation and developed a comprehensive administrative services program for the Park, setting a high level of standard in human resources, budget, procurement, contracting, and information technology,” Vela stated.

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