Park chief Jim Northup announces retirement

Jim Northup, superintendent of Shenandoah National Park and Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park, has announced that he will retire Jan. 2 after a 36-year career with the National Park Service.

Shenandoah National Park Superintendent Jim Northup is retiring Jan. 2 after a 36-year career with the park service.
Shenandoah National Park Superintendent Jim Northup is retiring Jan. 2 after a 36-year career with the park service.

Over the course of his career, Northup has worked as an interpretive and protection ranger, a natural resources specialist, a wildland fire and aviation specialist, a chief ranger, and, for the past 12 years, as a superintendent. His assignments have included work at Big Bend, Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Teton, Guadalupe Mountains and Shenandoah national parks, and Cape Hatteras and Fire Island national seashores, the Buffalo National River and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. He has also done international conservation work in Mexico, Canada, the Republic of Georgia and China.

“I have enjoyed every phase of my career,” Northup said, “but I have particularly fond memories of those many years as a field ranger.” Jim served as an NPS law enforcement ranger for 24 years and at the height of his protection ranger career was also a park medic and a certified NPS scuba diver. He was certified in helicopter-rappel and short haul, was very active in technical rescue work and held numerous qualifications in wildland fire and all-risk incident management.

For several years, Northup served as the operations section chief and later the incident commander for the NPS Type 1 All-Risk Incident Management Team, where he managed a wide variety of special events, including presidential visits to national parks. “Those were great years,” Northup added, “and I will always be proud and grateful for the opportunity to have worked as a national park ranger. What an amazing job.”

As a division chief and superintendent, Northup has been known as someone who helped develop high performance teams, improved park operations, resolved difficult issues and built excellent working relationships with partners and surrounding communities. At Shenandoah and Cedar Creek and Belle Grove, Northup has led a number of improvements in park planning, operations and community relations, and has led both parks through an ambitious celebration of the National Park Service Centennial. Northup added, “Being the superintendent of these two parks has been a great privilege and certainly the highlight of my career.

In reflecting on his retirement, Northup said, “I will miss the daily interaction with NPS employees, partners and other stakeholders who care so deeply about these very special places. We are so fortunate as Americans to have this amazing system that preserves our natural and cultural heritage, and I look forward to continuing to visit parks for the rest of my life.”

“I am also enormously grateful for the opportunity to have worked for the National Park Service. In addition to my family, the NPS mission has given my life real meaning and purpose. I hope I have made some small contribution to the mission of the service and to my fellow employees. The opportunity to have worked and lived in these places has been just amazing, and I hate to see that come to an end.

“I also want to thank my wife Phyllis, who has been a wonderful partner in this adventure, and our daughters, Erin and Amy, who were extremely supportive through our many moves. We will all cherish our memories as a family living and working in the national parks”.

In retirement, Rappahannock County resident Northup hopes to travel extensively, pursue many hobbies, visit with family and friends, and continue to contribute to the conservation movement within the U.S. and abroad.

The search for a new superintendent for both parks has begun. A selection is expected early in 2017. During the interim period, Jennifer Flynn, the deputy superintendent at Shenandoah, will serve as the acting superintendent for both parks.

An interview with Northup will be in next week’s Rappahannock News.

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