|Written by Mark Lineberger|
|Saturday, 28 January 2012 00:00|
Kathy Davis has spent more than 30 years in service working for the federal government. For nearly the last 10 years, Davis has held the title of superintendent for the National Parks Service overseeing Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot national monuments here in the Verde Valley.
This month, Davis announced she was planning a new chapter in her life: retirement.
Wednesday, Feb. 29, will be her last day on the job.
“A lot of it was realizing that life is short,” Davis said. “I gave it a lot of thought over the holidays and it just seemed like the right time.”
Also, joked Davis, watching her husband enjoy his retirement was an important factor.
Davis is originally from Nevada, “the big empty part” of Nevada. Her parents met in the Philippines and obtained land in Nevada under the Homestead Act, which grants land from the government in exchange for making improvements.
However, Davis admits there’s not much one can do to improve that land.
It was there that Davis first developed her love of the landscape, from the wide open desert spaces to the trees she’d see when camping out near Carson City.
This no doubt influenced Davis when it came to her decision to attend forestry school and find work with the forestry department in Montana.
The American government wasn’t the first federal government Davis worked for. She always had a passion for Australia, so when the chance came to work for their government in helping with a fire program, Davis jumped at the chance.
In addition to her love of the land, Davis also had a love of fire, so the job seemed like a perfect fit.
That assignment turned into a five-year stint from 1965 to 1970.
“It was wonderful,” Davis said.
In fact, the Australians asked if she wanted to keep working, but Davis said she would have had to have given up her American citizenship in order to do so.
With her nationality still intact, Davis returned to Montana where she earned a master’s degree in fire ecology, the study of the impact of fire on the land and its various flora and fauna. Davis used that degree to continue her work with the U.S. Forest Service.
Eventually Davis took a position with the National Park Service out of its San Francisco office on April Fools’ Day 1979, and over the next several years she traveled to parks all around the West, from the Grand Canyon to Hawaii to American Samoa.
Primarily, her job involved consulting with parks and helping them to establish or expand various programs.
“I was single and it was great,” Davis said. She spent about three weeks a month traveling around from park to park until eventually taking a position out of Phoenix.
During this entire time period, Davis said the National Parks Service had been growing, expanding more into dealing with cultural and resource management issues.
Gone were the days when it was once considered acceptable to put the remains of a found Native American skeleton on display, as once happened at Montezuma Castle.
Things were also different thanks to the National Environmental Policy Act, passed by Congress in 1969 and changing the way federal agencies had to approach land management.
For 16 years Davis worked out of Phoenix, but she said she always liked the Verde Valley. Davis and her husband had owned land here since 1993, so when the Montezuma Castle/Tuzigoot job opened in 2002 she threw her hat in the ring. The National Parks Service picked up that hat and ever since Davis has worked here as superintendent, the replacement for outgoing Superintendent Glen Henderson.
“I feel lucky,” Davis said.
Under Davis, much has been accomplished at the castle and at Tuzigoot. Davis helped expand the cultural, archaeological and environmental study efforts available on the land she was responsible for.
She also oversaw efforts to put together a comprehensive plan for the future of the local parks as well as a renovation of the visitor center and museum at Tuzigoot, along with several other maintenance and upgrade projects.
While this area doesn’t get the tourist traffic of the Grand Canyon, Davis said small parks like this have great potential.
Things ebb and flow, however, with annual visitation reaching around 1.3 million before slowing down to over a half-million visitors per year today.
“There’s a lot of ebb and flow,” Davis said.
Davis doesn’t expect to slow down too much with retirement.
“Work is a big part of my life,” Davis said. “I’ve always been very active. I can’t do nothing.”
On the recreation front, Davis said she was going to spend more time riding her horse and perhaps get back into some artsy-crafty hobbies she’s dabbled in over the years.
Davis also wants to take advantage of the new free time to volunteer, mentioning the local adult reading program and a local animal rescue.
“It’s a great job,” Davis said. “I’m happy to end my career this way.”
Above all, Davis credits her staff and their talent with making her tenure at the helm a success.
“I am grateful for the relationships developed over the years and longtime friendships,” Davis wrote in her retirement announcement. “Working beside people having civic virtue and a strong land and cultural ethic has been rewarding.”