Editorial: Ditmanson, FitzGerald deserving of team award for leadership of park

Apr. 07, 2013 @ 11:11 PM

We in Sevier County have known for years how fortunate we are to have the quality of leadership at work in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Superintendent Dale Ditmanson runs the nation’s most visited national park with skill and organization, while maintaining close ties to the community.

Now someone else has recognized the caliber of leadership present in the Smokies. Ditmanson and and recently retired Deputy Superintendent Kevin FitzGerald were honored at this year’s Association of Partners for Public Lands awards ceremony by being named the first team recipients of the Agency Partner of the Year.

Prior to this year’s announcement, the Partner of the Year award has recognized a single individual who demonstrated achievement in cultivating an atmosphere of partnership between his/her agency and the non-profit organizations with which they are affiliated. Ditmanson and FitzGerald’s recognition marks the first time a team of nominees has been honored. It is fitting they got it.

“When we considered submitting a candidate for Agency Partner of the Year, it became obvious that we have two individuals that have worked diligently together to assist and support our organizations,” said Terry Maddox, Great Smoky Mountains Association executive director speaking on behalf of GMSA and Friends of the Smokies. “(Ditmanson and FitzGerald) have fostered both deep professional bonds and personal bonds of friendship and trust with park partner staff members and their boards of directors.”

The team “takes the necessary time and effort to ensure its partners are deeply immersed in the daily fabric of GSMNP, with significant and regular sharing of information and collaborative planning for both short-term and long-term needs,” Maddox said. “Whether it is a road closing for an unexpected landslide, the conversion of an abandoned visitor center comfort station, establishing endowments for trail maintenance, or developing programs for youth involvement, the park’s non-profit partners are provided with sufficient information and guidance to establish clear, integrated missions.”

Congratulations to Ditmanson and FitzGerald for this singular recognition of their work. It is richly deserved.