Dale Ditmanson hailed for community efforts
Local officials praised Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson’s willingness to work with local communities Friday after learning Thursday that he plans to retire at the end of the year.
Ditmanson has been superintendent at the park since 2004. He announced this week that he will step down Jan. 3, ending a 36-year career with the National Park Service.
The park is the most visited in the nation, making it the lynchpin of the tourist industry that drives Sevier County’s economy. Events at the park, from the opening or closing of faclities, to the 75th anniversary celebration to the recent closing of Newfound Gap Road, have an impact on surrounding communities and especially those that help serve visitors with hotels, restaurants and other attractions.
Local officials say Ditmanson was always aware of that connection and went out of his way to communicate with them and work with them
“It has been my pleasure to work with Dale,” said Vicki Simms, director of the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. “His connection to the community has been a valuable asset and we have been blessed with his involvement and knowledge.
“We have built a system of communication between the business community and the National Park which has allowed us to forge an understanding of how commerce and preservation can work together to the benefit of all. He and his family are and will remain a treasured part of our community.”
City Manager Cindy Cameron Ogle also credited him for hte way he’d worked with the communities.
“The city has enjoyed and appreciated our cooperative working relationship with Dale,” she said. That’s been especially important to Gatlinburg, she said, because the city has the park entrance on once side and the Park-overseen Spur on the other.
Brenda McCroskey, director of the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce, recalled that in the first few days Ditmanson was superintendent he learned he couldn’t make it to the ceremony where one of his employees was named the park service’s employee of the year. It was early enough that he hadn’t met McCroskey in person yet, but he still called to apologize that he wouldn’t be able to make it to an event that she and other local officials would be attending.
“That he would take the time to do that was just extremely thoughtful and unbelievable to me,” she said.
She said he was like that throughout his career at the park.
“His communication skills are superb,” she said. “I’ve never worked with a superintendent that’s been that skilled at working with the people in his community.”
Pigeon Forge Mayor David Wear said Ditmanson had become such a fixture in the community that he’s become the face of the park for many local people.
Ditmanson showed up at a lot of local events, Wear said, and whether it was just to enjoy them as a resident or in uniform, he’s become a familiar and approachable figure.
“He’s put a face on the park service,” Wear said. “He’s become part of the community.”