Fri08222014

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New superintendent named for Birthplace

The George Washington Birthplace National Monument in Westmoreland County, the first home of the founding father who helped shape the destiny of America, will be getting a new superintendent in February.

Melissa K. Cobern has been named Superintendent of the Washington Birthplace historic site as well as the Thomas Stone historic site in Port Tobacco, MD, according to the National Park Service.

Cobern has been serving as the Backcountry Management Specialist at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. She will succeed Lucy Lawless, who left Washington’s Birthplace in May to become Superintendent of the Fredericksburg National Battlefield Park.

“Melissa’s deep understanding of park operations and tremendous community relations skills make her the ideal candidate to assume leadership at the Birthplace and Thomas Stone,” noted National Park Service (NPS) Northeast Regional Director Dennis R. Reidenbach.

“These skills will serve the park staff, community and visitors well,” Reidenbach reported. The new superintendent, Cobern, said she was “absolutely delighted to have been chosen as the new Superintendent of George Washington Birthplace National Monument and Thomas Stone National Historic Site.”

While at Great Smoky Mountains, Cobern lead the broad strategic planning effort that resulted in a new fee structure and more managed backcountry visitor access for the most visited park in the national park system.

Cobern built a new team for the Smoky Mountains Park’s backcountry efforts, facilitating collaboration across all aspects of the park’s operation. She also managed public affairs and served as the primary park liaison with key park partners.

Cobern said both the Washington Birthplace site and Thomas Stone “offer outstanding opportunities to connect with our nation’s history, as well as to appreciate the scenic beauty and natural resources of the local area.”

“I’m very proud to be joining the excellent staff and volunteers of these sites and look forward to becoming involved in the local communities,” Cobern said.

Prior to her time at Great Smoky Mountains Park, Cobern served as the Chief Ranger and Administrative Officer at Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado, Chief Ranger at Golden Spike National Historic Site in Utah, Acting Superintendent at the Golden Spike Park and Park Ranger and Education Coordinator at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.

Cobern is a native of Alabama and holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Montevallo and a Master’s Degree from Memphis State University. Tarona Armstrong of the Washington Birthplace staff, has been serving as acting superintendent at the park since Lawless’ departure in May.

— Richard Leggitt

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