Glacier National Park Superintendent Suzanne Lewis may be departing soon to become Yellowstone National Park’s top administrator.
“She’s on the short list,” Glacier spokeswoman Amy Vanderbilt confirmed last week. “She is being considered for Yellowstone, but nobody knows anything for sure yet.”
Lewis is one of several federal government executives being looked at to replace Mike Finley, who retired as Yellowstone’s superintendent in February after a 32-year career with the National Park Service. Finley now serves as president of the Turner Foundation, a philanthropic organization founded by media mogul Ted Turner, who has extensive land holdings in Montana and other western states.
National Park Service officials in Yellowstone and regional offices in Denver refuse to name the other finalists for Finley’s job, saying it is a private personnel issue. Yellowstone spokeswoman Cheryl Matthews says the appointment is expected within the next week or so. Another spokeswoman says three or four people are on the final list. Federal officials are also poised to simultaneously name a new superintendent in Wyoming’s Grand Tetons National Park.
Lewis, 45, started as Glacier’s superintendent in April 2000. During her tenure she has wrestled with disputes over Going to the Sun Road renovations, as well as public criticism over federal management of last summer’s Moose Fire, which tore through portions of the Flathead National Forest and into the west side of the park. Her most recent challenge has been dealing with private landowner Warren Heylman, who has proposed a 27-lot subdivision and a 2,000-foot airstrip on his family’s land inside the park’s boundaries. Another landowner recently teamed up with the conservative Mountain States Legal Foundation to fight a park rule that keeps him from using snowmobiles to reach his property in winter.
Lewis is a member of the federal government’s esteemed Senior Executive Service, comprised of nearly 7,000 top administrators who serve just below top presidential appointees. As part of her training with the service, Lewis worked with top Interior Department officials in Washington, D.C. and with the Walt Disney World Corporation.
Lewis, known as a straight-shooting administrator and a strong backer of resource protections, declined an Independent request to be interviewed until a final decision about the Yellowstone appointment is made.