Mike Ward, who has made a name for himself as a collaborator and effective leader at Voyageurs National Park since 2008, is taking over a Park Service site in St. Louis, MO. Ward has accomplished several significant initiatives while running the 218,000-acre park on the Canadian border.
In his tenure, the Park opened up a new headquarters building in International Falls, in partnership with the city. It also implemented a campsite reservation system, as well as several other major initiatives.
“The headquarters, additions to ice roads, implementation of the reservation system, work with the International Joint Commission that is culminating, the sewer project, beefing up snowmobile operations, the bike trail, the new tour boat… the list goes on,” Ward told the International Falls Journal. “Mostly, I appreciate and am humbled by the partnerships and relationships that were nurtured and created.”
Having served on the local Economic Development Authority and the Rotary chapter, Ward’s cooperative personality earned him accolades from local community leaders, including the former mayor.
“He is just phenomenal and incredible and we couldn’t be happier,” former International Falls mayor and current EDA director Shawn Mason told Minnesota Public Radio News in 2013. “He wants to see this area succeed.”
Ward will return to St. Louis to lead the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, which includes the city’s famous gateway arch. He and his family lived and worked in St. Louis before coming to Voyageurs, with Ward serving at the Ulysses Grant Historic Site. A native of Illinois, he said he loves the north woods but is ready to be closer to extended family.
“In northeastern Minnesota, family is No. 1,” he told the Journal. “While everyone always was welcoming to us and became like family, the loss of my mother has caused us to realize we can no longer be away from our immediate family as far as we have been.”
Ward has been recognized several times for his work at Voyageurs. In 2009, he received the National Park Service Midwest Region’s Director’s Award for Natural Resources as Superintendent of the Year for his work related to air quality.
Voyageurs National Park Maintenance and Facility Manager William K. Carlson has been named acting superintendent at Voyageurs until Ward’s permanent replacement is named.