Hartzog – Management Policies and Administration Vision

You both shared a history with the Park Service and worked together from that point on. Mr. Hartzog, I’d like to talk about your vision for the Park Service when you became director. The two of you must have had a shared vision. I’d like to hear both of you talk about your vision of what the Park Service could be, what it should be, how it should define itself.

I think that’s a very germane question and I’m so happy you ask it that way, because that’s exactly the way I approached my notes to talk with you. I think that is the heart of my nine years as director, because I think we did, and I think we shared the same vision, because we had talked about it for a long, long time. So there was not much new in terms of what he and I thought about the operation. There was a heck of a lot new in what we did about it when we got here, because, of course, Bill beat me to Washington. He left me [in St. Louis] and came to Washington for a promotion. So he was in Washington when I came as director. And one of the first things I did was to promote him and make him my assistant director for interpretation, because he had the vision for a new emphasis on interpretation and what it could mean. He can tell you about that. That’s one of the reasons I wanted him here [for this interview], because he was an integral part of what we tried to do.

I want to make one other point: when I came here I was aware of the fact that the opportunity for achieving your ambition is greatly enhanced with allies. That’s how we were able to build that project in St. Louis—with our allies. I learned the importance of legislators in a project’s success, such as the St. Louis City Council, Missouri State Legislature, and Missouri Congressional delegation. Success breeds success. When we were able to get that contract under way, we created more interest from more people than you can ever imagine in the city of St. Louis, because it had been there so long with nothing. We took a lot of ridicule, of course, [references to the proposed Gateway Arch as] the “wicket” and all of that, but we never let that depress us. It kind of excited us, because we were going to build the biggest “wicket” in the world, and we did. So the fact that you had to involve other people, and the ability and the recognition of the need to work with other people in achieving your objective was very much a part of my philosophy when I came here.

Now, with that in mind, what were the motivations that drove me to change things? Well, when I was in the field I had spent my time in Washington as a lawyer and as assistant chief of the concessions division, for a short while as the acting chief of the division when the old gentleman as I mentioned earlier, Mr. Oliver G. Taylor, passed away. And then I went [back] to the field but during that Washington experience I wrote three administrative manuals: land acquisition, concessions, and law enforcement. I got out to Rocky Mountain [National Park] and I had just finished the concessions manual, the last one of the three before I got there. We had the forms in the back that were acceptable for use in authorizing concessions. The form I had used for a saddle horse permit was the best one I had seen up to that point. I put it in the manual, but when I got to Rocky Mountain, I found one that was much superior.

So when it came time to issue those permits the next year, I said to the superintendent, “You know, this is a better form than the one in the book. Let’s use this.” He agreed and so we authorized our saddle horse operators under this park form. At that time you had to send a copy to the region. So the region got my copy. In two or three weeks, maybe a month or so, we got a memorandum back from the regional director wanting to know why we had used this form instead of the one prescribed in the manual. So the superintendent came in and he said, “What’s this all about?” I said, “Well, it’s better than the one in the manual. I wrote the manual so, I mean, I know what they are talking about. If I had had this form, it would have been in the manual instead of the one that’s in there. So I recommend you put that memo in the trash,” and that’s what he did while he was standing there. We heard nothing further of the matter.

But that fixed my view about administrative manuals. So when I came here as director in 1964, there were several things I was intent on doing. One of them was that the last time a secretary and the director had agreed on how they were going to run the park system was when Secretary [of the Interior] Franklin Lane and later Secretary [Hubert] Work both did memos for Horace Albright and Mather. Since then, no one had written a memorandum that set out how they wanted the Park Service run and who was going to run it. So the first thing that Bill Everhart and I started working on was a memorandum to me for the secretary to sign saying what the policies of the Park Service were going to be and what its modus operandi was going to be.

After reviewing the draft I had prepared, the secretary signed the memorandum on July 10, 1964, establishing six policy objectives: to provide for the highest quality use and enjoyment of the parks; to conserve and manage the parks responsibly; to expand the National Park System; to cooperate with other conservation organizations; to communicate the significance of the American heritage through the National Park System; and to increase the effectiveness of the National Park Service. In 1964, we had to change attitudes and motivate people to respond to the emerging needs of an urban America. That was a secretarial objective; therefore, it became my imperative.7

That was the beginning. The second thing I did was—after I got that [memorandum]—I then gave it to the legislative committees of Congress. Secretary Udall’s memo recognized the three categories of areas in the National Park System: natural, historical, and recreation. I wanted that defined by statute so that both the administration and the Congress were in agreement as to what’s in the park system…. Then we wrote these three management handbooks, [which] compiled for the first time in one place the individual policies that applied to natural areas, historical areas, and recreation areas.

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George B. Hartzog, Jr., as assistant superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park, 1956. R. Taylor, photographer. (National Park Service Historic Photograph Collection, Harpers Ferry Center.)

Then another thing that we did was—we didn’t have any agreed-upon mission statement for the Park Service—so we developed what we called the Pledge of Public Service [card]. I’ll give you that if you don’t have one.

W.E.– I haven’t seen one for a long time.

G.H.– That was our mission statement. You turn that over on the other side, and there were goals, our goals in personnel management, because, you see, at that time if you left the Park Service, you were gone forever. They didn’t want you back. My experience was that I would welcome you back with the added experience and learning that you’d acquired. That’s one of the goals you see listed on the card. We [encouraged] you to go out and get additional experience.

This is the step of taking that vision toward actual implementation?

Absolutely—and changing a structure that’s based on books to a structure that’s based on people. That concept of [having a] mission statement and the secretary’s memorandum saying what his objectives for the Park Service were, and we then developed those individual administrative policies that codified these sections. Then we developed program goals each year to tie it to the budget and that I meant to have mentioned that earlier, but I’ll mention it now.

The first thing I did when I came to Washington was I took control of the budget, personnel, and legislation with the explanation that I didn’t care who approved the master plan. Nobody was getting any people or money until I approved the budget and made the personnel appointment. So the critical juncture of management is people and money, and then legislation, the foundation for both of them. You can’t operate without money, and you can’t achieve your objective of expanding the system without the Congress, because they set the public-land policy of America—you don’t. So you’ve got to involve them. I took legislation, budget, and personnel; they were my province. Then I delegated the rest of the operation to the deputy, associate, and assistant directors in the Park Service. Now about that there are a lot of questions. Some of them say it was a good job, and some of them say that it was not done very well. But that’s why I’ve got Bill, and he’ll fill you in on that.

The other thing I did is that I wanted to know what my customer thought about my operation. What are the visitors getting, and what do the visitors have a right to get? So I set up an operations evaluation team.

I wanted to know that internal controls were in place as required by the laws enacted by Congress and the regulations promulgated by the General Accounting Office [now the Government Accountability Office], the Office of Management and Budget, and the secretary for accountability for money and property. I had an assistant director for administration who oversaw these functions, but I wanted to know more.

The Park Service is in the park-resource-preservation and people-serving business. You can have a clean bill of health from the auditors that tells you no one went south with anything of value. But it does not tell you how well you accomplished the mission. I established an operations evaluation unit to answer that question. The unit was small with two clerical workers and three senior executives who had experience in legislation and regulations, budget and appropriations, personnel management, and field operations.

There were three people of senior rank on the team. One of them had been my previous personnel officer. One of them had been my previous chief of legislation and congressional affairs, and one of them had been a previous regional director: Hank [Henry G.] Schmidt, Frank Harrison, Jack Pound. They traveled. That’s all they did. No audit. They were forbidden to go into the back office and look at the books. Their view was the visitor’s view in the park. What do the signs look like? What is the condition of the roads? What do the buildings look like? What is the condition of interpretation? Does it have a story that the visitor understands and is interested in? Is it communicated well? Or does he [the ranger] have on a dirty uniform and not know what he’s talking about? What does the visitor see? That’s what I wanted to know.

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Left to right: A. Clark and Alma Stratton with their son; George Hartzog, III, Nancy Hartzog, Conrad L.Wirth, and Helen and George B. Hartzog, Jr., at Hartzog’s swearing in ceremony, 1964. (National Park Service Historic Photograph Collection, Harpers Ferry Center.)

 

They went from area to area and what they found to be excellent or very good in one area they shared with another, so in that way what was innovative and creative was quickly spread to the field where it counted. What was a real problem they sent to me in a blue envelope, a lousy park operation or a superintendent not on top of the job. I sent a copy [of the report] to the regional director with a note that I wanted to see him and the superintendent in my office in thirty days to discuss this.

The first one that went out happened to be involving one of my favorite people, Fred Fagergren, who had been superintendent of Grand Teton and whom I had just promoted to be regional director in Omaha. He got that memorandum, and he just came apart. You couldn’t imagine this wonderful man using such language to describe the inspector who wrote that report. What did he know about park operations? “Well,” I said, “Fred, he doesn’t know anything about them, but I had the doctor certify that he has very good vision. He can see. He’s not blind and that’s all that is—a report on what he saw. The signs are not maintained. The road has potholes in it. The ranger had a dirty uniform on. The other thing that he [the inspector] went on about involved an interpretive program in which the person stood in front of him and read half of it instead of having memorized the exercise. That’s what the visitor saw and it was a lousy visitor experience, and that’s what I want to talk about.” “Well, I know that’s not the way it is,” [Fagergren retorted]. I said, “Well, why don’t you do this. Why don’t you just cool off and go to the park and see what’s happening. Maybe it’s not the same park that you left.” Well, he quieted down.

Three or four weeks went by and it was time for my meeting. Helen Johnson, my secretary, called Fred to set up the meeting. One afternoon, late, I got a call from Fred and he said, “We don’t need that meeting.” I said, “Oh, yes, we need that meeting, because I want to find out what’s at the bottom of all of this.” He said, “I’ve already done it [identified the problem] and it won’t happen again.” So the reports had the added incentive of giving the regional directors insight into how their parks were being run. Often they get involved in paperwork, just as the director does, and do not see park operations often enough.

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