Ramos Enjoying Time as Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent ; Ramos Enjoying Time as Head of National Park

News Sentinel, April 26, 2014 | Go to article overview

Ramos Enjoying Time as Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent ; Ramos Enjoying Time as Head of National Park


GATLINBURG -- Pedro Ramos came to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as interim superintendent in January to stay 90 days. He's still here and has fallen in love with the park and the community around it.

"I did not expect that to happen," he said. "I came here to help with the transition."

Ramos was assigned by Stanley Austin, Southeastern regional director of the National Park Service, when Dale Ditmanson retired. Ramos, superintendent of the Big Cypress National Preserve since 2009, is based in Naples, Fla.

This is not the 46-year-old's first assignment as an acting superintendent. He also has been at Jimmy Carter and Andersonville National Historic Sites in Georgia and San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico, his native country.

He could be a candidate for the permanent Smokies position but his family's "circumstances" don't make it the right time, he said. He plans to leave in June.

Back in Naples, he has identical twin 14-year-old sons, Miguel and Carlos, who are in high school and all the activities associated with it. They really don't want to move, he said. He and wife Maureen also have a daughter, Sarah, 7.

"That is where the real sacrifice is, with your family. To come to the crown jewel (the Smokies), the visit speaks for itself. It's something you do," he said.

"I will leave with high hopes of returning some day," he said.

The vacancy announcement for the permanent job of superintendent of the nation's most visited park opened two weeks ago and a permanent superintendent may be in place in the late fall, Ramos said last week.

Among those who believe he has the potential for eventually becoming superintendent of the Smokies is Fran Mainella, NPS director in 2000-06 and former director of Florida's park system, who lives in Bonita Springs, Fla.

"One of my goals as director was to meet employees. He always stood out as one of our leaders. He did it on his own. I encouraged him to get training," Mainella said in a telephone interview with the News Sentinel on Saturday.

She said she would like to see him in the category reserved for superintendents of big parks like the Smokies or Florida Everglades.

"We need people of his caliber to be leaders of the Park Service. Who knows, maybe he could be director,"she said.

Ramos has been more than a caretaker superintendent. He's hosted U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, spoken at area schools, presented awards to deserving employees and met with the park's partners, Friends of the Smokies, Tremont Institute and Great Smoky Mountains Association boards of directors.

He said when Austin appointed him, Austin told him to follow his best instincts in leading the park, staff and community during the transition.

"The civic engagement and community outreach I do is my personality but also comes to be an important part of how I work because I am convinced that the most important work we do every day is connect with the people around us. Our success or failure long term will be measured in my opinion by how well or not we did in this area," Ramos said.

His job with the Park Service evolved from his boyhood in San Juan, where his parents were pharmacists. His father died when he was 7. His mother is possibly the oldest practicing pharmacist on the island in her 80s, he said. He graduated from a Jesuit-run high school that prepared young men to go to college in the U.S.

So he chose the University of Massachusetts in Amherst where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1990. …

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