Great Smoky Mountains National Park announced on Wednesday, April 29 the selection of Dana Soehn as the Park’s 2014 “Employee of the Year.” This marks the 31th anniversary of a partnership between the Park and its neighboring communities which recognizes the outstanding work of Park employees in all disciplines. A public event will be held on Monday, May 4 at 11:30 a.m. on the lawn at Park Headquarters.
The annual event, sponsored by the Smoky Mountain Tourism and Development Council, will also observe National Tourism Week. In conjunction with this observance, a visiting family to the Smokies will be selected to participate as “tourist family of the day.” Jimbo Whaley, singer and songwriter and General Manager at Hearthside Rentals, will serve as the Employee of the Year event emcee.
Soehn began her career at the Smokies in 1989 as a Student Conservation Association Resource Assistant. After her internships, she spent 15 years as a member of the Resource Management and Science Division. In 2005, Soehn became the Parks as Classrooms liaison between the park and Pi Beta Phi Elementary School. In 2009, she returned to the National Park Service as the park-wide Volunteer Coordinator where she directed the park’s 3,000+ volunteers, creating lifelong stewards of the national park. In 2012, then-Superintendent Dale Ditmanson selected her to serve as the park’s management assistant, the park’s primary spokesperson and liaison with community groups and friends groups.
In 2014, Soehn’s role in the superintendent’s office transition along with her continued community service made her a clear choice for the Employee of the Year award. As Management Assistant, she guided three acting superintendents through their details at the Smokies, organizing public meet and greets, introductions to park partner groups and community organizations. In this position, she also organizes several events and programs with partner organizations, including the Student Conservation Association’s National Park Service Academy. Soehn and her co-workers have streamlined processes regarding Freedom of Information and Special Use permit requests over the past year. Finally, as the primary spokesperson for the park, she has maintained an excellent relationship with local, national, and international media outlets.
“Working with Dana every day, I see firsthand her passion for this special place,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “She represents the Smokies, and the National Park Service, with the highest degree of enthusiasm and professionalism.”
Dana lives in Gatlinburg, Tenn. with her husband, Heath and their two sons, Grant and Garrett. As a family, they have traveled to many of the national parks throughout the country. She shares her time in the community through volunteer service at her church, in local schools, the Gatlinburg Planning Commission, Keep Sevier Beautiful and many other organizations.