Mary Amelia Bomar, of Pennsylvania, to be Director of the National Park Service
Mary A. Bomar
Nominee for the Position of
Director of the National Park Service
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
United States Senate
September 21, 2006
Mr. Chairman, Senator Bingaman, and distinguished Members of the Committee: Words cannot begin to express my feelings of joy, excitement, and honor in being nominated by the President of the United States to become the 17th Director of the National Park Service. To be entrusted with the care of the “crown jewels of America,” our national parks, is the ultimate honor for me as a career public servant. I thank the President and Secretary Kempthorne for the confidence they have demonstrated in me through this nomination.
As you well know from your own visits to national parks, you can never meet a park ranger without hearing a story…and mine begins as a very young girl.
I am a city gal. My family owned a large manufacturing company in Leicester, England. I was very fortunate to be raised by wonderful parents, with four brothers and one sister. From our very earliest days, we learned the importance of cash flow, the value of the bottom line, and the need for the highest degree of integrity combined with a strong work ethic to truly be successful in life’s journey.
I lived in the United States for some time as a child—New York, Chicago, and California. I was fortunate to have a father who loved to travel. We would pack up the station wagon for vacations to the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Golden Gate, Mount Rushmore, and many other parks. While living in Chicago, we traveled the “Mother Road of America,” Route 66, all the way to California. An incredible memory forever etched upon my mind is sailing into New York Harbor on the liner Ile de France and seeing the Statue of Liberty—the lady rising from the water. Little did I know that one day I would have a role in her care. What an awesome responsibility!
Journeys such as these provided me with an education that no school could have. Seeing and experiencing firsthand America’s vast and magnificent scenery, and its premier historic and cultural sites, instilled a lifelong passion for the importance of preserving these special places. I believe the National Park System is truly the world’s largest university.
I am proud to call myself “an American by choice.” I took the Oath of Allegiance to the Constitution of the United States on October 28, 1977, in Spokane, Washington. It was a very proud moment for me and my family. I was given a letter from then President Jimmy Carter which stated that my citizenship gave me the right and also the responsibility to take part in the business of our Government.
In many respects, the position of National Park Service Director is something for which I have trained my entire life: first, as part of a family whose economic well-being depended on the success of our business and which instilled in me a passion for America’s special places; then, as I met my own “man from Missouri,” a handsome young man in the U.S. Air Force, who would become my husband of forty plus years. We raised three lovely children while living on U.S. military bases around the country and the world: Biloxi, Mississippi, for three years; Spokane, Washington, for four years; Alpena, Michigan, for three years; Phoenix, Arizona, for four years; as well as bases in Europe. As a civilian employee for the U.S. Air Force, I managed large Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) programs in both Europe and the United States. As a result of my leadership skills, one center I managed was designated as the Air Force European MWR managerial training center. Dependent on nonappropriated funds, satisfied customers were vital to support the MWR facilities and programs. As a head trainer and roving staff assister for the Air Force in the MWR arena, I knew how to spot management problems and fix them quickly. My business acumen and willingness to address issues earned me an Air Force Manager of the Year Award, a Meritorious Service Award, and other performance awards.
The management skills I developed in my work for the Air Force are applicable in my work for the National Park Service, where it has been an honor and privilege to work the past 16 years. Almost all of my National Park Service tenure has been in the field, including assignments as an Administrative Officer, Circuit Rider/Staff Assister, Management Assistant, Deputy Superintendent, Superintendent, State Coordinator; and presently I am the Director of the Northeast Region.
I credit my success to my passion for these very special places—the national parks; my business skills and willingness to become involved; my ability to be decisive; and to the many great leaders who have mentored me along the way. As a management circuit rider in the southwest, I was assigned to many national parks and offices, including the then-Santa Fe Regional Office, the Intermountain Regional, Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Capulin Volcano National Monument, parks in Texas, and many others that were facing serious challenges. I worked to identify the root of problems and facilitated solutions with park managers that resolved the issues at hand. It was not “I” who solved the problems, but “we—the team.” I feel very fortunate, thanks to well respected previous regional directors, to have had the opportunity to practice my skills. My first superintendency came by way of an assignment as acting superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park. So, as I like to say, I was western-trained for 12 years but came onto the national scene and given exposure in the East just four years ago.
My success in the West led to the superintendency of the Oklahoma City National Memorial—established to mark the events and to honor the victims of the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal building. Working with family members, survivors, and rescue workers, as well as with a Presidentially appointed Trust, State, and local officials, was a challenge; but it was a challenge I relished, as I led my team in setting up all aspects of operations for this new site.
After Oklahoma City I became superintendent of Independence National Historical Park, home to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Independence National Historical Park, a World Heritage Site, is considered the premier cultural park in the National Park System. The park hosts over five million visitors annually and has over 300 employees with an operating budget that exceeds $21 million.
Following a tremendous period at Independence, I was honored to be selected as the Northeast Regional Director, where over the past year and half I have focused on improved management practices that have saved $1.7 million annually in the regional office operational costs. I also developed the first Business Plan for a Regional Office, improved accountability in programs within parks and program offices, and enhanced the performance management system for all park superintendents in the region.
While the mission of the National Park Service remains the same as it has been since the Service’s inception in 1916, the way we go about achieving that mission has evolved greatly as we near our centennial in 2016. New challenges and opportunities abound. As passionate stewards of our natural and cultural heritage, it makes sense to gather together to learn from our past and look to the future.
On the 90th Anniversary of the National Park Service, in August, President Bush called on the National Park Service to prepare our national parks to flourish for the next 100 years and beyond. Interior Secretary Kempthorne announced a 10-year National Park Centennial Challenge to help guide the Service through another century as the world’s leading conservation, preservation, and visitor enjoyment agency. The Centennial Challenge will propel us as an agency into a new era distinguished by sound government, citizen, and philanthropic partnerships that create a better park experience for all visitors and raise the conservation bar for the generations yet to come. This is a truly wonderful opportunity for the National Park Service, and I look forward to working with each of you to meet the challenge set by the President and Secretary Kempthorne.
While park superintendents and program managers are vested with much authority, it comes with an equal amount of responsibility that demands high quality results, stellar performance, and the utmost levels of accountability. Our mission requires constant reexamination to assure that we fulfill park mandates and respond to changes in the world and in our visitors. In a workforce that comprises civil servants, volunteers, contractors, partners, and others, the successful leader must have the skills to personally embrace change and to foster a climate that encourages others to do the same. Our actions are observed by our employees, partners, and indeed the entire community we serve. I pledge to you that, if confirmed, I will be a leader who demonstrates high ethical standards and promotes transparency in all our activities.
I will ensure that we apply scholarly, scientific, and technical information in the planning, evaluation, and decision-making processes. I will continue to put into place a highly qualified, diverse workforce that reflects the face of America and possesses the management excellence, creativity, and innovation skills necessary to lead the National Park Service into the future.
I will work to continue to foster passion for the parks among the American public that is as strong as it is among those of us who proudly wear the National Park Service uniform—the gray and green. I will work to find new ways of ensuring that sustainable processes are in place to care for our resources and improve services to the public. We must not saddle future generations with the bill, but instead search for creative ways of working within our means to leave an inheritance we can all be proud of. We must listen to the American people and ensure we consider the impacts of our decisions on those who live here now and those of future generations who will visit in the years and centuries ahead.
I look ahead to working with people throughout the Nation—not only the great men and women of the National Park Service, but our many partners, communities, and of course the Congress, to address the challenges facing us and to ensure a legacy for the future generations called for in the Act that established the National Park Service 90 years ago.
I work with some of the finest public servants in any Government agency. They are passionate about their work to protect our Nation’s great places and to welcome the public to them. I would be proud, if confirmed, to lead the National Park Service into the bright future ahead.
Thank you all sincerely for the opportunity to be here today. I look forward to any questions you may have for me.