Bill Wade is what is referred to as a “Park Service brat,” growing up in Mesa Verde National Park (NP) where his dad was the Chief Ranger. For four of his years in the park, he worked on the Weatherill Mesa archeological project. After graduating from Ft. Lewis College, he was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and served a ten-month tour in Vietnam. Upon return from Southeast Asia, he spent a summer as a U.S. Forest Service laborer in Delores, Colorado. In 1967, he attended the Introduction to National Park Service Operations program at the Horace Albright Training Center at Grand Canyon NP.
Bill began his “official” tour as a park ranger in Mt. Rainier NP and stayed there until 1970 when he moved to become the Chinquapin Sub-district Ranger in Yosemite NP. In 1971, he became Chief of Monuments and Memorials and Area Manager in the National Capital Region. He then returned to the Albright Training Center as a training specialist for visitor and resources protection. In 1976 Bill accepted an offer to become a Visiting Lecturer at Lincoln College, Canterbury, New Zealand. When he returned to the U.S. in 1977, he became the Assistant Chief Ranger at Great Smoky Mountain NP. Breaking the mold again, in 1980, he accepted a position as a Park Specialist for the Organization of American States in Trinidad and Tobago. He returned to the U.S. in 1981, accepting the position of Assistant Superintendent at Delaware Water Gap. In March 1984, he became Superintendent of the Stephen T. Mather Training Center in Harpers Ferry, WV. In 1988, Bill transferred to Shenandoah NP as Superintendent and remained in that position until his retirement in July 1997.
The word “retirement” should be applied cautiously in Bill’s case. He spent three weeks in Russia and three weeks in Greece and made four short trips to the Kingdom of Jordan for the Interior Department’s International Affairs Office. He also spent five months in Abu Dhabi working for their government to establish their first national park and two summers in Denali NP as a reemployed annuitant. He is a founding member of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (now the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks) and served as the Chair of its Executive Council for years. Based on his career-long interest in training, he remains active in leadership, team building, and performance management training, teaching courses in various park areas throughout the country. He presented the first “Managing the Search Function” course in the NPS while at Albright, a course that many believe helped revolutionize how lost person operations are conducted in the NPS and by other agencies and saved countless lives. He was actively involved in the National Association of Search and Rescue.
Bill’s awards include the Department of the Interior Meritorious Service Award and the Distinguished Service Award, the NPS Director’s Award for Natural Resources Stewardship, and the Regional Director’s Superintendent of the Year Award. He also received the National Parks Conservation Association’s Stephen Mather award for his defense of park resources. As Superintendent of Shenandoah NP, he took mitigating actions related to threats to the area’s air quality from more than 40 proposed coal-fired power plants in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Thanks to his determined stand, state permitting conditions were tightened and/or permits not issued for some plants, resulting in cleaner air, less acid rain, and better views for visitors in the park.