VINP Deputy Superintendent Mike Anderson
Almost three decades after starting his National Park Service (NPS) career in interpretation in V.I. National Park (VINP), Mike Anderson has returned to St. John as the park’s second in command.
Anderson, who first joined the VINP team in April 1979, returned last month to St. John where he was named Deputy Superintendent of both VINP and V.I. Coral Reef National Monument.
After graduating from University of North Carolina Wilmington with a degree in marine biology, Anderson and his wife Gale were working at the Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City when they started to look for NPS jobs.
“We both had temporary jobs and we were looking for summer jobs,” said Anderson. “At the time if you wanted a seasonal job with the NPS, you were limited to applying to only two parks. Back then there were something like 300 parks to choose from and we chose Cape Lookout National Seashore and VINP.”
“I remember talking to some of my co-workers about working for the park service and they said the chances of getting a job in a big western park were the best,” Anderson said. “I refused to follow their advice and, as they say, the rest is history.”
Anderson ended up spending about four and a half years at VINP, where his first supervisor was Edmund Roberts and he worked alongside Oscar James, Aubrey Johnson, Matilda Marsh and Beulah Dalmida, among others.
“Some of the people I worked with back then are still here and some have left the park service but are still around,” said Anderson. “It’s been really nice being able to catch up with everyone.”
After leaving the VINP, Anderson spent about 13 years at Cape Hatteras National Seashore before taking the chief ranger post at Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi. Anderson spent five years at the Parkway before heading back to the coast.
“I went to the Parkway because my entire career before that had been on the seashore or in a marine environment,” said the new VINP Deputy Superintendent. “Going to the Parkway was a totally different park service experience for me. And then after five years, we went back to the shore.”
Anderson’s then spent three years at Assateague Island National Seashore on Maryland’s eastern shore before taking a position at the NPS Regional office in Atlanta, Georgia. It was during his time at the regional office, that Anderson heard about the VINP post, he explained.
“I was the Regional Chief Ranger for the Southeast Region and this position in VINP was advertised and then put on hold,” said Anderson. “I had not applied for the job the first time around and when it was put on hold I called [VINP Superintendent] Mark [Hardgrove] and told him that when he reopened the position that I was very much interested in coming back to St. John.”
“I felt like this is my last park assignment and I really wanted to come back to St. John and give back to this particular park, at the end of my career, the benefit of the experiences I’ve had through the service over the years,” said the deputy superintendent. “It’s been really interesting. There are still employees on staff who were here almost 26 years ago and then there are some new employees too.”
As deputy superintendent, Anderson is responsible for both day-to-day operations at VINP as well as keeping a keen eye on the future.
“My job is to work with the management team and oversee day-to-day operations, plus coordinate future projects,” said Anderson. “We’re always looking for efficiencies and additional sources of funding for the park for those future projects.”
While he’s noticed some stark changes to VINP’s natural resources over the years, the chance to return to the park where his career began has been a dream come true, Anderson explained.
“The big challenge today seems to be being able to do more with less,” he said. “I have been back over the years and I’ve seen degradation of the resources, but I was out at Salt Pond last week and it was still very nice out in certain areas. I think the message is that we must redouble our efforts to protect these resources.”
“Our mission is to protect the park by preserving the natural and cultural resources for future generations to enjoy,” said the VINP Deputy Superintendent. “We’re always looking for a balance between using and accessing the park and protecting the resources.”