ASHEVILLE – One of Blowing Rock’s most impactful economic drivers got a new leader earlier this month. The National Park Service announced last week that the Blue Ridge Parkway has a new superintendent, Tracy Swartout, effective May 23.
Swartout is a 21-year veteran of the National Park Service. Beginning in 2012 to the present, she served as the deputy superintendent of Mount Ranier National Park in Washington state, where she was responsible for operations and leadership. Mount Ranier National Park is a 250,000-acre park with designated wilderness, six affiliated tribes, and a complex National Historic Landmark District, according to the NPS website. At various times during her nine-year term at the park, Swartout served as its acting superintendent, acting deputy regional director for NPS resource management and planning in the Pacific West, and NPS Partnership Council representative.
The new Blue Ridge Parkway appointee is not a stranger to the Carolinas. Previous to her service at Mount Ranier, Swartout served as superintendent for Congaree National Park in South Carolina. While there, she worked closely with the park’s various community partners to expand its acreage “… and deepen the shared history of the park with important cultural sites nearby, including the Harriet Barber House.” The Barber House was recently recognized as a part of the Reconstruction Era national Historic Network.
Swartout was recognized as the Southeast U.S. region’s “Superintendent of the Year” in 2012.
Early in her NPS career, the native of Columbia, S.C. led the NPS Business Management Group in Washington, D.C., providing management consulting for parks across the United States. For seven years, she recruited, hired and mentored teams to develop business plans for over 75 parks across the country, including the Blue Ridge Parkway, Shenandoah, and Great Smoky Mountains national parks. Before joining NPS, she worked for the National Parks Conservation Association.
“We are excited to select Tracy to lead one of the country’s most visited parks in the national park system,” said the NPS South Atlantic-Gulf Regional Director, Stan Austin. “She is an exceptional leader with a solid record of performance managing multi-faceted park operations and collaborating to achieve important agency and community objectives. Her experience, commitment to operational excellence, and passion for inclusive public participation make her well-suited for this role.”
Swartout holds a Bachelor of Arts in geography from the University of South Carolina. While in college, she served as a page and legislative aide for the Medical, Municipal and Military Affairs Committee in the South Carolina House of Representatives. She also holds a master’s degree in environmental studies with an emphasis in natural resources from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. In addition, she has completed postgraduate work in environmental management and coastal geology at Duke University and completed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s executive leadership program.
Outside of work, Swartout enjoys spending time with family and friends in the outdoors, quilting, pottery and live music. She and her husband plan to relocate to the Asheville area in June with their children and two dogs.