Read: The Truth about my time in Texas.
Here are a few facts I want to lay out first:
- The units of the National Park Service that I worked at were not ‘bad’, and the history at Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument is fascinating – both in terms of human history and geological history. The sites protected here help build our understanding of the development of civilization on the southern High Plains and the desert southwest. And I learned flintknapping from VIP Jimmy. That was fun. 🙂
- I didn’t mind living away from the big city. In fact, the lack of traffic was quite refreshing after working in Denver for 13 months.
- I did miss having a grocery store with lots of fresh fruit and vegetable options. Even United, the best (in my opinion) of the chain stores didn’t have quite the produce selection I’m used to. Even in small towns by other parks, I’m used to finding produce stands or farmers’ markets – I really couldn’t find much along these lines in Texas, and that was a bummer.
- Thanks to two classes I went to during my 14 months there, I made some new friends all over the country, particularly two ladies, one in Utah and one in Oklahoma. I will miss chatting and sharing ideas with these folks.
But here’s the thing. And I know it’s the thing for a lot of other parkies.
The management sucks.
There is a definite, complicated reason that the National Park Service CONSISTENTLY scores so low on the Federal Employees Viewpoint Survey. (Read the 2015 results here.)
At the risk of being black-listed for the rest of my life and never getting another NPS job, I documented poor behavior, unfair practices, and policy violations for almost a year. I tried several times (documenting those times as well) to request mediation, help, or ANYTHING that would improve the situation. But the management was so entrenched. My requests – even in writing – fell on deaf ears and never went anywhere. I was the evil non-team member who caused trouble.
My only feeling of justification came in the fact that another female employee who, having more years in service than me, was completely unhappy with the way things “ran” at this park. In fact, she stayed for a shorter time period than I did. I worked there about 14 months, whereas she only stayed 9 months. We both left for greener pastures, hoping to never look back. Thankfully, she got a new position – with some power – at another park. Her years in service and grade paid off, and I’m happy for her. I’m lucky, too, that there was a vacancy at my former office and my supervisor at that job was happy to have me transfer back. My new position came with a raise and way more promotion potential than my NPS job could have offered.
The good ol’ boys club in Texas was so powerful. And after all, I was just a GS5. I was told that I was being insubordinate. I was told I was expendable and I should mind my manners if I wanted to stay employed. Our supervisor barely spoke to this other employee, so clearly, she was equally expendable. (How would she know?)
Expendable, that is, until we handed in our notices and then the ‘assignment’ list I was given grew and grew and grew. And what I didn’t get done, this other employee had to work on (she left two weeks after I left, so there was a pay period where she had to work alone – although she wrote me a couple of times asking for my help). You see, this other employee and I were actually prepared for our jobs, had the specialized skills to do specific tasks – no other employee on the staff could do these tasks, including our supervisor.
So when we left, the shit hit the fan. There are specific tasks revolving around the National Park Service’s 2016 Centennial that will not be accomplished now without outside help. The tasks can’t be done in house because no one is prepared. (Incidentally, one of my good friends who does these tasks at an NPS unit in a neighboring state has already been contacted to do the tasks.)
Related to poor management, but not my immediate job, a week before I left it came to light that the Chief of Maintenance had moved $15,000 from an account for my division (department) to his division. My division’s chief – my inept now-former supervisor – didn’t even catch that his funds were gone. When I asked a coworker why this was allowed to happen, she replied, “[Division Chief] is a bully and no one will stand up to him.” She shrugged and walked away, like this was accepted behavior.
If it wasn’t so pathetic, I would laugh.
I am heartbroken. I sincerely believe (somewhat naively, I’m sure) that our public lands deserve better. These are the places that are supposed to exemplify the best our country has to offer – and teach us about our collective history. And yet, they are abused and degraded from the inside and the outside.
I can’t work for a manager like this. I believe I have the skills to do a lot of good for the public trust. But I just can’t sign my name to a system like I experienced in Texas. So it’s back to the office job in Denver for me.
My supervisor here is nice and cares and actually does her job.