New Rushmore superintendent selected

Leslie Silverman

The National Park Service has announced Michelle Wheatley as the new superintendent of Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Wheatley replaces interim superintendent Patricia Trapp, who began in 2020.

According to a press release, Wheatley is “a 21-year veteran of the National Park Service,” and has “worked in a variety of national parks all over the western U.S.”

Wheatley is currently the superintendent of Jewel Cave National Monument.

“It is truly an honor to be selected as the superintendent of Mount Rushmore National Memorial,” said Wheatley. “Having lived in Custer for the past three years serving as the superintendent of another South Dakota treasure in the Black Hills, Jewel Cave National Monument, I look forward to learning more about Mount Rushmore National Memorial and working with the dedicated staff, volunteers, and partners there.”

National Park Service Regional Director Bert Frost described the process of selecting a new park superintendent.

“This is a very competitive position, and there were many applicants from across the country,” Frost said. “We considered each on the basis of personal merit and evaluated and ranked them based on their experience, education, skills and performance record.”

Frost praised Wheatley for her “excellent track record as a successful leader and has managed complex operations working with park gateway communities, partner organizations and tribal leaders at a variety of national parks during her career.”

According to Frost, there had been talk of “consolidating the leadership of Mount Rushmore and Jewel Cave,” but due to “the federal hiring process that determines the grade levels of positions, we were not able to increase that position’s grade.”

“We decided to reorganize in a different way to allow Mount Rushmore’s superintendent to continue to fully focus on that one park,” Frost said.

Wheatley has served as superintendent of Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument and as chief of interpretation at Colorado National Monument. She has also served in a variety of visitor service positions in Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain National Park as well as acting superintendent at Colorado National Monument and at Grant Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site.

A Colorado State University graduate, Wheatley has worked as a seasonal employee with the U.S. Forest Service, an outdoor education and science coordinator for the YMCA in Estes Park and for the City of Colorado Springs Environmental Services Division before joining the National Park Service.

According to Frost, “She is sure to add tremendous value as superintendent of Mount Rushmore.”

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