Mike Alvarez Is Hanging Up His Hardhat at Harpers Ferry Center
After nearly 5 decades with the National Park Service Mike Alvarez is retiring on January 3rd, 2019, after 48 with the Harpers Ferry Center (HFC) and over 50 years of government service, including his military time.
Mike grew up just down the road from Harpers Ferry, where his parents owned and managed horses at the Charles Town Racetrack. After time in the Navy, Mike came home and got a job at the new National Park Service center through the Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Program. He started on October 22, 1970 as a GS-3 mail clerk; he retires as a GS-13 manager of facilities and information management.
“I went from messenger to manager,” Mike likes to say. He remembers advice Bill Everhart, HFC founder and first director, gave him: “Your position is to support the people at HFC so they can be creative; if they are successful, you will be too.”
Among his achievements:
- Supervising transitions from switchboards and typewriters to networks and computers
- Participating on the service-wide committee that wrote the current NPS-44 property management regulations for the National Park Service
- Updating telecommunications during the Y2K scare of 1999–2000
- Rewiring communications overnight on September 11, 2001, in case NPS leaders relocated from Washington (they didn’t)
- Leading renovation of the historic Anthony building from foundation to roof
- Installing the first fiberoptic network in 1995, which cost $800,000, and the latest in 2018, which cost $1.3 million
- Receiving recognition and multiple awards for his work, including the Department of Interior Honor Award for superior service and Goodwill’s 2014 Mission Partner of the Year
- Since 2005, Mike estimates he has led over $30 million dollars of improvements to the Harpers Ferry Center facilities.
During his long career, Mike met many famous people, including Freeman Tilden, “the father of interpretation.” His favorite story is about meeting President Jimmy Carter. Mike was mowing his lawn when the Secret Service announced the president was coming the next day, and they needed Mike to set up the communications. He worked all night to get the job done. As thanks,
a White House official asked Mike to stand with him as Carter’s motorcade arrived. After Carter greeted the official, he shook hands with Mike. “I’ll never forget it,” Mike said, “this had been on my bucket list, to shake hands with a president.”
Asked what he might do in retirement, Mike joked that his next job is with his wife Dianne. They plan to relax, fish, read, spoil their yellow lab Nugget, visit family, and travel. And he adds, “Practicing to become an avid napper!”