A gay UC Berkeley graduate and former Bay Area National Park Service official has been selected as the new superintendent for Joshua Tree National Park east of Palm Springs in southern California.
David Smith, currently the superintendent of Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas, will begin his new position in mid-September, replacing former superintendent Mark Butler, who retired earlier this year.
“David’s experience and proven leadership will be a great asset for the park,” stated Pacific West Regional Director Chris Lehnertz in a news release. “His background working in diverse parks with many different types of resources and his proven success in building collaborative relationships both inside and outside government makes him a great fit.”
According to the statement, Smith considers Joshua Tree to be “his dream park,” as it was where he signed on as a park volunteer, and in 1998, got his first permanent position with the National Park Service as a Joshua Tree park ranger.
“I grew up climbing and camping in what is one of America’s hidden jewels: Joshua Tree National Park,” stated Smith. “Helping to lead Joshua Tree in the coming years is an honor. The staff at Joshua Tree are committed to caring for the park and its visitors. They are leaders in environmental education, scientific research, as well as search and rescue, resource protection, and facilities management. I am looking forward to the privilege of working with such an amazing cadre of individuals.”
Smith, who grew up in northern San Diego County, earned a BS in Forestry/Developmental Studies from UC Berkeley.
During 22 years with the National Park Service, Smith has served as a law enforcement ranger, a park interpreter, and a biological technician in a host of western parks. Before being sent to Kansas, he served in Washington, D.C. as legislative staffer on the House Natural Resources Committee as part of the NPS Bevinetto Fellowship program.
Smith arrived in Washington having worked as district naturalist at Grand Canyon National Park, interpretive specialist at the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, and as a law enforcement ranger at Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego and Utah’s Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.
He married his husband, John Evans, in a ceremony in California in 1996. They lived in the Bay Area when Smith worked for the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail and Golden Gate National Recreation Area. While in Oakland the couple adopted their son, Dante, and daughter, Jakiah.
Smith will be joined by his spouse and their two children when he begins his tour of duty at Joshua Tree this fall.