A 25-year career veteran of the National Park Service (NPS), David Vela began his tenure as superintendent of Grand Teton National Park & the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway in March, 2014. Vela manages more than 310,000 acres of park lands, including the spectacular Teton Range, whose jagged peaks and distinctive geology make it a classic reflection of the American West. The park and parkway protect 51 miles of the wild and scenic Snake River, and serve as home to fascinating wildlife: bison, pronghorn, moose, elk, grizzly bears, wolves, bald eagles and sandhill cranes, to name a few.
Prior to taking his current post, Vela served as associate director for Workforce, Relevancy and Inclusion in the NPS’ Washington headquarters where he oversaw programs including Human Resources, Learning and Development, Equal Opportunity, Youth, and the Office of Relevancy, Diversity & Inclusion. Before his time in Washington, Vela served for over four years as director of the NPS’ Southeast Region, where he oversaw 66 national park sites in nine states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.
Vela began his NPS career in 1981 as a cooperative education student at San Antonio Missions National Historical Park in Texas and later became a permanent park ranger there. In 1984, he transferred to Appomattox Court House National Historical Park in Virginia to serve as supervisory park ranger. Two years later, he moved to Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia as a district ranger.
From 1987 to 1998, Vela worked in a variety of federal and state posts outside the NPS. He was a special agent in the Department of Health & Human Services Inspector General’s Office, conducting white-collar criminal investigations in New York and New Jersey. He was also a special assistant for Hispanic affairs to the late U.S. Rep. George Thomas “Mickey” Leland of Texas. He was a federal investigator for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In 1996, the Texas attorney general appointed Vela director of the Texas Child Support Program, where he supervised more than 70 field offices and 2,400 employees.
Vela returned to the National Park Service in 1998 as superintendent of Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site in Texas, one of eight states in the Intermountain Region. In 2002, he became Texas state coordinator for the Region. After a stint as superintendent of Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in Texas, he transferred in 2006 to the George Washington Memorial Parkway in the Washington, DC area as superintendent.
Vela is a graduate of Texas A&M University, with a Bachelor of Science degree in recreation and parks. He graduated from the U.S. Department of the Interior Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program in May 2006. He and his wife, Melissa, have two children, Christina and Anthony, and four grandchildren.
David will speak at the panel ‘Building A Better Pipeline‘ on Friday, October 14 at 10:30 AM as part of the SHIFT Summit.
Tickets for the 2016 SHIFT Festival can be found here.