Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson announced on Tuesday, Aug. 13 that Patricia M. Wissinger has been selected as the next Deputy Superintendent. She replaces Kevin Fitzgerald, who retired earlier this year. Wissinger is currently the superintendent of Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Atlanta, one of the busiest recreation areas in the United States. She is scheduled to report to her new assignment in mid-September.
“Patty brings a broad base of park operational knowledge and experience to the Smokies having served as a Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, Division Chief, and in the Regional Office,” said Ditmanson. “Patty has been recognized for her leadership with partners as well as employees and I look forward to having her on our team.”
Wissinger is a career National Park Service (NPS) employee who began her career in 1980 as a seasonal campground ranger on the Blue Ridge Parkway and moved up through the Park Service ranks. In addition to Chattahoochee River, she has served in management positions at the Blue Ridge Parkway, Shenandoah National Park, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Wright Brothers National Memorial, and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. She has served in extended acting assignments as Superintendent at Vicksburg National Military Park and Deputy Superintendent at Shenandoah National Park. She also served twice in the NPS Southeast Regional Office – once as the Region’s Chief of Partnerships for over 63 parks and once as manager for the National Heritage Area Program, including twelve areas dispersed throughout the southeastern states and the Caribbean.
Wissinger has extensive experience in building partnerships, major museum design and construction, land acquisition planning, viewshed management, road and bridge construction projects, exhibit design, educational outreach, general management planning and managing large national park visitor services. She was recognized with numerous awards including Southeast Region Superintendent’s Award for Science and Resource Management Excellence and, under her leadership, Chattahoochee River NRA was recognized for Excellence in Interpretation and Education.
“Words cannot express how excited I am to join the staff, partners, volunteers and the communities of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the crown jewels in our nation,” Wissinger said. “I feel like the most blessed person in the National Park Service right now. This park is unsurpassed by its natural beauty, diversity of resources, and cultural heritage. In my opinion, it is absolutely the most beautiful place on earth. I am so proud to join the committed cadre of citizens who together will protect this incredibly special place as we also connect it to a new generation of Americans to preserve and enjoy.”
A native of North Carolina, Wissinger received both a bachelor’s of science degree and a master’s degree in public administration from Western Carolina University. She spent many years in Asheville where she volunteered extensively for the Buncombe County School system, and served on the Boards of the Appalachian Consortium, the Haw Creek Neighborhood Association and the East Asheville Recreation Association. She and her husband Gordon both have a connection to the Great Smokies; he served as the Cades Cove District Ranger for five years in the 1980’s. He currently serves as a Deputy Regional Director for the NPS Southeast Region and will retire soon to join his wife in a place he “can’t wait to return to.” Patty and Gordon have five grown children between them, three of whom reside in western North Carolina, one in Colorado, and one working in Glacier National Park in Montana.