It may be a bit chilly in Wyoming and Montana for native Texan Regina Klein Dissler, but the acting superintendent of the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is very much enjoying her experience overseeing the park.
“It’s great; it’s beautiful, gorgeous,” said Dissler, who started her new post Jan. 9. “The staff is wonderful, very welcoming. They’re ready to get to work, and I’m very appreciative of that.”
Dissler said her posting is supposed to be for 90 to 120 days, “but given the current (federal) hiring freeze, I’m anticipating 120 days,” she added.
She said she won’t have time to make any changes, nor would she want to, now that she’s had a month to evaluate the park.
“My main role is to keep the positive things rolling forward,” she said.
A native of Stonewall, Texas, Dissler comes to Bighorn Canyon from Amistad National Recreation Area in Del Rio, Texas, where she is chief ranger. She is second generation National Park Service. Her mother worked at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park in Johnson City, Texas, near Stonewall, for 30 years, and her father worked at the Lyndon B. Johnson State Historical Park across the river.
Dissler started with the Youth Conservation Corp at LBJ National Historic Park and over the years her career has taken her to the Inks Lake State Park in Texas, the Harry S Truman National Historic Site, Big Thicket National Preserve, Natchez Trace National Parkway and Amistad National Recreation Area, where she has worked since 2003.
“This is a good career step for me,” said Dissler, who will return to Amistad NRA after her time at Bighorn Canyon. “I have done it in my home park, but I always wanted an opportunity to go somewhere else. It’s easier to come in from outside the staff than coming from within the staff.”
Dissler said there is some concern about how the federal hiring freeze enacted by President Donald Trump will affect Bighorn Canyon going forward, noting that her number one concern is hiring seasonal workers for the summer.
“We’re nearing the selection point for summer seasonals,” she said. “We have received guidance that we can start the (hiring) process, but we can’t offer anyone a job yet. We hope that happens soon, but there’s no guarantee yet. It may push us further behind in the hiring process than we’d like to be.”
Seasonal workers are hired at Bighorn Canyon in the areas of maintenance, law enforcement, interpretation and lifesaving, Dissler said.
“We’re all in kind of a big holding pattern,” she said. “Fortunately, the key positions are in place, except for the superintendent.
“We’re working on some projects for the marina building at Horseshoe Bend and on the Ok-A-Beh marina concession contract. There are ongoing projects with the resource management crew such as buildings and fences. Maintenance never stops.”
Dissler said she is looking forward to warmer weather so she can explore her new park. She did attend the Love Your Arts open house at the Taggart Visitor Center Saturday and found some time to explore the south end of the park a bit.
She invites park users to contact her at 406-666-3300 and said she plans to make regular visits to the south end of the park.
By David Peck