Your administration marked a transition in so many ways. The National Historic Preservation Act, as you mentioned, extended the Park Service’s preservation responsibilities outside park boundaries. We talked only briefly about the explosion of new legislation during your tenure, such as the National Trails System Act. Mr. Everhart, you wrote that Mr. Hartzog “might be termed the last director of the old Park Service.” I’d love to hear both of you comment on the idea that this was a transition period. Would you like to go first, Mr. Everhart?
W.E.– I think that with the coming together of President Johnson, Stewart Udall, and Hartzog for the Great Society, there was really sort of a revolution. I’m a historian. I know the people who live through a revolution never realize it. It’s the next generation who has to realize it. So that was the time, and the great tragedy for the country was that LBJ got caught up in the Vietnam War. And that is where all of the money went.
But during that time, all things were possible and the Park Service started looking where it had never looked before for parks and for activities. Like Wolf Trap, Stewart Udall and George, engaged in a little conversation, mainly, “Is culture a part of history?” And when they decided that it was, then many others expanded it [the number of cultural sites]. At the same time with the victory [for historic preservation, the Service started] getting involved in so many things that the organization itself got to be—I think in our time 7,000 employees; now it’s up to 15,000 employees—now it’s probably a bureaucracy. We always tried. At the same time we [the Service] are doing things that George and I would be astonished to even find out we’re doing. But once it started up it hasn’t stopped. The Park System has expanded, but I think it was during those days that it took off for the big revolution.
Do you see your tenure as a transitional period, Mr. Hartzog?
I suppose in looking back you would have thought it was a transition. I never really looked on it as a transition. I thought of it as a revitalization, and I still look on it as that. You look back at Steve Mather and Horace Albright, and I put them together, because of the great difficulty Mr. Mather had with two or more years of his administration. It was really Horace Albright’s administration. They were interchangeable in the years from when Mather was director through Albright’s term; it was really one.… That was a period in which the Service set its bounds, branched out into new areas. It had no historic areas. Horace Albright brought them in, in that one fortuitous trip that he made as a passenger with the secretary and President Roosevelt to Shenandoah and the Blue Ridge Parkway. That’s where Horace Albright got the historical areas in that few minutes that he talked with the president about it.
So I looked on it as a revitalization of that era in which there were no limits. There was a great rapport between the Service and the Department [of the Interior]. The secretary was involved and gave me free rein to go and do. I always kept him fully informed. He knew everything I was doing.
This was Secretary Udall?
Udall. I had the same kind of relationship with Secretaries [Rogers] Morton and [Walter] Hickel. They didn’t circumscribe me. That’s one of the reasons that they give for President [Richard] Nixon’s quote in [H. R.] Haldeman’s book: “Rogers Morton won’t get rid of the son-of-a-bitch. But he’s got to go.” Nixon meant “Morton wouldn’t contain him, so I’m going to contain him. I’m going to get rid of him,” you know. But they [administration officials] were a part of it, because I always kept the secretary advised of my activities and pending legislation. The White House wanted to stop the expansion of the National Park System.
Be that as it may, if people want to look on it as a transition, then it was a transition, because I’m sure we came out of it a different organization than we went in. The Park Service had become a bureaucratic organization hidebound by its books and its rules and regulations. I think Bill Everhart and Ted Swem and Howard Baker and Ed [Edward A.] Hummel, and those of us who had a new vision about what created the Park Service, could bring it [the organization] back to the [original mandate for the] Park Service. And we restored it by abolishing handbooks, making superintendents responsible for management, saying to the employees what a satisfactory level of performance is, what the policies are and they decide how to run the park on a day-to-day basis without having somebody in Washington write a book answering all of their unasked questions.
In that 1981 interview, you indicated that you had: “A freedom of movement which none of my successors have ever had, and which I doubt if any of them will ever have again.” It sounds like that’s what you were talking about with the support from the department.
Absolutely. Yes. I don’t know if any of them have had that liberty since, do you?
W.E.– Well, it’s gotten so big, but one thing is that George initially went in and got the approval from Udall that he [Hartzog] would appoint every superintendent in the park system. Well, that was a clever way to do it, because every park superintendent in the system was looking forward to moving upward, and he knew that he would have to impress George. So by doing that George was able to get the support he wanted. I guess, as I recall George’s conversation with me one time, he was pointing out that he gave the superintendents his authority, because they had to do things and make decisions and so forth. But he could not delegate his responsibility. In the end it was all going to come, the things that get out of hand, come back to him.
So that is the way to operate the system, and the difficulty was it got too big. Now it would be literally impossible. The Park Service has become a bureaucracy. I guess what’s happened is, it [the responsibility] has moved down. The superintendent now runs his park, and it’s a bureaucracy. And a lot of the goodwill came out of it [the Service when it became more bureaucratic]. [But] it’s still a great organization, and we still have a great park system.
G.H.– I met with every superintendent in the National Park System once every year, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We convened on Friday night, had our meeting on Saturday, and tried to adjourn by noon on Sunday, so they could be home to go back to work on Monday morning. They were invited to bring their spouses, and I met with the wives separately during that session to hear what they thought about the Park Service.
I don’t know. That took an awful lot of time from my family, but my wife approved of it before I started it. I left this area on Friday morning, and I didn’t come back usually until Monday, because if a superintendent wanted to stay individually and talk with me on Sunday after the meetings were over, I stayed overnight for that purpose. No minutes. No agenda. Just your problems, whatever you want to bring up we’re going to talk about it. The only record ever made was, if you brought up a problem and we agreed on an answer that had Service-wide implication, then that answer went out the next week on a pink memorandum to all regional directors so that that communication went throughout the Service. But otherwise no record was ever made of it.
I felt that was one of the most important things that I did in meeting with those guys, because we could sit across the table from each other and talk about their problems. I had no agenda. I spent the first fifteen minutes telling them what was going on in the department and in Congress, where the legislation was, where the appropriations were, what, if anything, the secretary was all churned up about and wanted to do something about. That was it.
I also insisted that the regional directors give me a list of five of the most talented people in their region every year. And I kept that list in my desk drawer. At the end of the year, I took it out and compared it with where those thirty-five people were at the end of the year. And generally every one of them had been moved to a new position during the course of that year.
You also sent them to the Federal Executive Institute.
Absolutely. We contracted with the Federal Executive Institute at Charlottesville, Virginia, to devise and implement a team-building program to foster cohesiveness in our changing organization. The institute was established by the Civil Service Commission (now the Office of Personnel Management) to train senior managers in the federal government. The University of Southern California loaned the director of its School for Public Administration, Dr. Frank Sherwood, to the federal government to head the institute. The sixty-day residential program that Sherwood designed for federal managers was the most creative, innovative effort made by the federal government during my career to improve the quality of government management. I attended the first session and sent some of my principal assistants to each session thereafter until each deputy, associate and assistant director, and each regional director had completed the program. I thought it was one of the most innovative, substantive things ever done to improve the quality of government management.
In addition to providing advanced training for Service managers, Hartzog retained the management consulting firm of James M. Kittleman and Associates to conduct an organizational study of the National Park Service. Later, Hartzog retained Kittleman personally as a part-time consultant to monitor and advise him on the implementation of the study and evolving management issues.