Harpers Ferry park leader: Pleasure to interact with visitors

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Tyrone Brandyburg is superintendent of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

Tyrone Brandyburg, superintendent at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia, is a 33-year veteran of the National Park Service.

Born in Orangeburg, S.C., Brandyburg graduated from Branchville High School in Branchville, S.C., and received a bachelor’s degree in American history and education from South Carolina State University in Orangeburg.

As an undergraduate, Brandyburg started his National Park Service career through a co-op program at Fort Sumter National Monument in Charleston, S.C.

“After graduation, I worked as a park ranger for three years while gaining experience in collections/museum management and supervision,” he wrote in an email. “I transferred to Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site (in) Alabama to the position of lead interpretive park ranger. Within two years, I changed career goals and became the park’s museum specialist.”

While living in the area he also attended Alabama State University, earning a master’s degree in American history with an emphasis on African-American studies.

After five years in Alabama, Brandyburg was named chief ranger at Booker T. Washington National Monument in Hardy, Va.

Two years later, he transferred to the newly created site of Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site, in Topeka, Kan., as chief of interpretation. After two more years, he transferred to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, serving as interpretative ranger for the Sugarland District.

Brandyburg then returned to Alabama as chief of interpretation and resource management for the Tuskegee Institute National Historic, Tuskegee Airmen, and the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail.

“I stayed in the position for seven years and started to seek greater opportunities,” he wrote. “I was very fortunate to transfer to Moores Creek National Battlefield (in South Carolina) as superintendent. After six years of service at Moores Creek, I was promoted to superintendent of the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. After spending five years in western North Carolina, I was promoted to superintendent of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.”

How many people work at Harper’s Ferry, and about how many visit each year?

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park has a permanent staff of 64 employees, and we have 350,000 visitors per year.

What led you to a career with the National Park Service?

My initial dream was to become a teacher of American history, either at a high school or at a college. After joining the National Park Service and understanding what the organization provides for the public, I decided to work for the National Park Service. It was an easy decision because I was able to teach/provide information about America’s history to a wider variety of audiences. I also was able to concentrate and focus on one aspect of history that I enjoyed researching.

How have your previous assignments prepared you for this role?

Work experience is a key factor in how individuals are promoted to leadership positions in the National Park Service. All my experience prepared me for my role as superintendent of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. The majority of the decisions that I make are based on the experience I had at the previous park that I managed. Although parks may be located in different parts of the country, they all have the same goal of resource protection.

What will be the park’s biggest challenges and opportunities in the next few years?

I think the biggest challenge, and also an opportunity, in the next few years will be replacing all the experienced employees we have on staff. Over the next year and half, one-third of the staff can retire and another one-third can retire within the next three years. The challenge will be replacing an excellent team of people and replacing them with an unknown staff. It is an opportunity to hire a younger staff who may see the park differently and have new ideas. These new staff members will be a great change for the park, but they also will provide some uncertainty because they may not have all the experience to deal with certain aspects of the operations that the previous staff may already know.

What’s it like to manage a workforce that includes park employees and volunteers?

It is great. I love working with people who have the same passion that I do for history and resource protection. I like the fact that we have different people — who, again, see things differently — coming together to solve problems and ensure that the public has an enjoyable visit to your National Park Service site.

What it’s like to interact with Harpers Ferry visitors?

It is a pleasure interacting with visitors to Harpers Ferry. Even though the visitors may be on vacation, it is great that they choose to visit a national park. I enjoy telling the story of Harpers Ferry while answering questions that provide a better understanding of the history of the park. I truly enjoy talking with visitors.

Outside of work, what are your ambitions and aspirations?

I would like to continue to pursue an advanced degree in history. I hope in the next few years to enroll in a local university and receive a doctoral degree in history (African-American studies).