Happy Birthday, National Park Service!
Celebrating the National Park Services’ 100th anniversary with a career Q&A from three of the federal agency’s top female park rangers.
Sarah Creachbaum: Superintendent, Olympic National Park
Sarah Creachbaum remembers always having a sense of adventure. Although on paper she says she may not have looked like someone bound for a professional leadership role, in hindsight it’s hard to see it playing out any other way. The park ranger from rural Ohio’s almost 25-year-long career with the NPS has taken her as far away as Hawaii, Guam and Saipan in addition to positions at Grand Canyon National Park, Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.
What made you want to work with the NPS?
I was an adventurer. It was a Roy Rogers thing. Dale was kind of a weenie but Roy was pretty cool. He was such an icon to me.
How did you get started?
College was not an option for me at the time. I got a job at the Fred Harvey Trading Company concession at the Grand Canyon in the late 70s, early 80s. I washed dishes, tended bar and waited tables. Concession employees tend to be a diverse and wonderful group of people, kind of like a family. Then I got a job at a dude ranch at the bottom of the canyon.
By the time I was 25, a couple of very good friends kicked around the idea of taking a few community college classes. Someone had to dare me to go to college. I was terrified. I was 25 and fearful of English 101. But I went and passed. I got a job as a seasonal [employee] at the Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Ariz. I started as a GS-3 and have been every grade up to a GS-15. No job is perfect, but there are moments in my career that I think how lucky I am and how beautiful the world is. I love it. It’s all Roy’s fault.
What is the best piece of career advice you’ve received?
Get the ego in check. Calm down the pitter-patter in your chest and listen to the feedback. People are telling you these things because they want you to be successful. That was a critical piece of advice for me. I don’t think we train ourselves, or our young employees, to hear criticisms because nobody likes it.
What is your wish for the NPS as it celebrates its centennial?
It’s a big, fat, beautiful wish. I wish for the next 100 years that the Park Service continues its proud tradition but also evolves to the point where our parks and employees reflect the faces of our country; that we broaden our perspective and include everyone’s story. It’s so cool how many new and different parks have been created already. Look at Stonewall (NYC). How cool that we are keeping that story and are reflecting it back to the country. We have big parks with majestic vistas, and also the Booker T. Washington National Monument and Stonewall National Monument. We get these stories and we take them pretty seriously.