Great Smoky Mountains National Park Announces New Chief Ranger

New Smoky Mountain chief ranger Lisa Hendy is hired. Photo credit - GSMNP.

New Smoky Mountain chief ranger Lisa Hendy is hired. Photo credit – GSMNP.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Announces New Chief Ranger. Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials tapped Lisa Hendy as the Park’s first female Chief Ranger. When she assumes her new position in April, Hendy will oversee employees in the Resource and Visitor Protection Division who perform law enforcement duties, wildland fire operations, emergency medical services, search and rescue operations, backcountry operations, and staff the emergency communications center.

Hendy is well qualified for the job and brings a wealth of experience. She has served at several parks with complex ranger operations including Yosemite National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Arches National Park, and Rocky Mountains National Park. She is currently the Chief Ranger at Big Bend National Park.

Lisa has demonstrated incredible leadership in managing law enforcement, fire, and search and rescue operations at some of the nation’s busiest parks,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “She’s built strong programs by investing in local partnerships with neighboring agencies to help make areas safer for visitors and residents. She is going to be a great addition to the park’s management team.”


It is a career that might never have happened except for a 15 minute conversation Hendy had while obtaining a major in Park and Recreation Management at Auburn University in Alabama (a degree no longer offered at that school.) When Hendy told her professor that she wanted to go into law enforcement but was not interested in living in a big city, he suggested she look into land management agencies. It proved good advice and Hendy certainly has not been stuck in a city. “It was one of those cross-road moments,” Hendy was quoted. “That professor taking that time with me was life-altering.”

Instead, she has served in regional and national leadership roles as a member of the Intermountain Special Events and Tactics Team, National Search and Rescue Working Group, Pacific West and Intermountain Incident Management Teams, National Drowning Prevention Advisory Board, National Preventative Search and Rescue Working Group, and a lead instructor for National Technical Rescue Training. Accolades for Hendy’s performance include the Harry Yount National Park Ranger Award in 2011, a peer-nominated award and one of the highest recognitions that a park ranger can receive honoring excellence in protecting resources and serving visitors. In 2007, she received an Intermountain Region Exemplary Service Award for life saving efforts within Grand Canyon National Park. In addition to a Bachelor of Science Degree from Auburn University with a major in Park and Recreation Management, and a Master of Science Degree from Utah State University in Biomechanics and Exercise Physiology, Hendy also holds a Federal law enforcement commission, is a certified paramedic and has certifications as a structural firefighter, wild land firefighter, aviation manager, technical and swiftwater rescuer, and several leadership roles for incident management teams.

Hendy, who grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, discovered a love for backpacking and enjoyed her first backcountry experiences in the Smokies as a youth.  She continues to be a tremendous outdoor enthusiast and enjoys kayaking, climbing, hiking, and canyoneering.

Hendy was quoted as saying, “I am looking forward to returning to my home state in the park that provided my first real outdoor adventures. It will be a pleasure to be involved in the efforts to protect a place that was so instrumental in defining my passions and ultimately my career.

Congratulations to Hendy, and a shout out to her and all our Auburn friends- “War Eagle.”

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