“I started my career in the Great Smoky Mountains (National Park), so coming back to the Appalachian Mountains is like coming home,” he said. “It was an easy decision for me. I love the communities that run along the Parkway and the opportunity to work with those folks that I feel like are family to me.”
Lee, 53, has been serving as acting superintendent of the Parkway since October after former superintendent Mark Woods retired on July 3, 2017. He is now in the process of moving and will assume his new role on Feb. 18.
Originally from Indiana, Lee is a graduate of Ball State University in Indiana and a 30-year veteran of the National Park Service, starting his career as a seasonal ranger and wildland firefighter in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He has extensive experience working with NPS staff, partners, concessioners and contractors to provide essential visitor services and a comprehensive understanding of resource preservation.
When it comes to leading the Parkway, Lee said a major focus will be working to engage the younger generations in its continued preservation.
“I like the word ‘challenge’ because I think it means that there are opportunities, and I think the biggest opportunity for us not only on the Blue Ridge Parkway but in the entire (Park) Service is our relevance in getting the future generations to stay engaged and understanding the benefit of having such great resources in their backyard,” he said.
Lee has been the deputy superintendent at Big Cypress for eight years, before that serving as chief ranger at the National Park Service Intermountain Regional Office in Denver, where he led a program staff that supported more than 90 national park sites and provided technical assistance on a variety of operational issues. He has served on multiple incident management teams and is currently a liaison officer with the Southern Area Type 1 Red Team, which manages wildland fire, natural disaster relief efforts and other management activities. Lee has also held management positions at the Natchez Trace Parkway and Gulf Islands National Seashore, and completed temporary assignments as acting superintendent of the Big Cypress National Preserve, Canaveral National Seashore and, most recently, the Parkway.
“I am thrilled to have such an incredible opportunity to work with dedicated people in an area known for boundless scenic beauty,” Lee said. “I look forward to building strong and lasting relationships with Blue Ridge Parkway staff, friends and partners.”
He was selected following a competitive hiring process that began with a job posting at www.usajobs.gov. Selection criteria included the ability to manage complex and diverse land management programs, develop an overall vision and strategic plan for advancing the mission of an organization and develop partnerships with a variety of stakeholders to accomplish projects.
“J.D. is a valuable member of the Southeast Region and we are pleased to welcome him as the new superintendent of Blue Ridge Parkway,” said Regional Director Stan Austin. “J.D. is a proven leader with vast experience managing complex operations, building strong teams and collaborating with community partners.”
Lee and his wife Stephanie will soon relocate to Asheville. They are avid hikers and look forward to seeking out as many of Western North Carolina’s waterfalls as possible. They have two daughters who live in Naples, Florida, and a son in the U.S. Coast Guard.