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Isle Royale names superintendent

Swanke

HOUGHTON — After eight months, Isle Royale has a permanent superintendent. 

Denice Swanke will become superintendent of the park effective Aug. 16, the National Park Service announced Friday. 

Swanke comes to the park from Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska, where she has been acting superintendent and deputy superintendent since 2016. In 2019, she also served as acting superintendent of Mount Rushmore National Memorial. 

“I’m very excited about joining the team at Isle Royale National Park,” Swanke said in a release. “The Upper Peninsula, Lake Superior, and Isle Royale National Park are very special places, and I look forward to working with the park staff and stakeholders. I have yet to experience ‘enough’ snow in my life and hope that gets tested in winters to come.”

Before Denali, Swanke was superintendent of Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument from 2012 to 2016. 

She previously served in acting superintendent roles in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area and Horace Albright Training Center. Swanke also served as legislative affairs specialist for the National Park Service Washington Office, environmental protection specialist for Grand Canyon National Park and outdoor recreation planner for Yellowstone National Park.

Swanke follows Phyllis Green, who retired as superintendent in November after 18 years. Administrative duties have been shared between senior staff, including acting superintendent Liz Valencia. 

“It’s great to have a new permanent superintendent joining us and to be part of the team,” said Valencia, the park’s chief of interpretation. 

The total number of applicants were not released, Valencia said. Hiring is done at the regional office, where a panel of park superintendents evaluates the candidates and the final five or six go through a rigorous interview process.

Park staff has already been in touch with Swanke, and is including her on updates and calls, Valencia said. Swanke will also meet with staff when she arrives.

“She’s arriving early enough in August that she’ll be able to spend some time on the island,” she said. “That’s the best way to get up to speed.”

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