First woman to head Vicksburg military park

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 2, 2004

[7/29/04]Monika Mayr, a veteran of 20 years with the National Park Service, has been named new superintendent of the Vicksburg National Military Park.

She follows Bill Nichols, who served as superintendent for 18 years before his retirement Dec. 31.

Patricia Hooks, Southeast Regional director, announced Mayr’s appointment and said Mayr would assume her new post in late September. Since Nichols’ retirement, the park’s day-to-day operations have been overseen by Rosie Wince.

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When Mayr takes over the new post, she will be the first woman named to head the local park, created by Congress in 1899.

“I am thrilled about this opportunity to be part of a community that is drenched in history and to work with a dedicated staff toward preserving and interpreting an important chapter of our national heritage,” Mayr said.

Mayr has been assistant superintendent of the Biscayne National Park in Miami, Fla., for nearly seven years and was the top manager of the Obed Wild and Scenic River in Wartburg, Tenn.

“Ms. Mayr has faced a variety of management challenges during her career and brings a lot of experience and knowledge to her new assignment,” Hooks said. “She will fit in well with the community and the staff at Vicksburg.”

Mayr is a magna cum laude graduate of Virginia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in parks and recreation management. She worked briefly for the Fairfax County Park Authority in Falls Church, Va., before joining the National Park Service in Washington, D.C. She served as a contract specialist for the National Capital Region for 10 years. During that time, she was involved in renovation projects at the White House, the Vice President’s Residence and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

She transferred to Obed in 1994 and to Biscayne in 1998. During that time, Mayr took the lead on a number of environmental issues and was in charge of the day-to-day park operations.

Here, Mayr will head a 40-member staff running the 1,736 acres of national military park and a 116-acre national cemetery. The park’s operation also includes the maintenance and operation of the USS Cairo, a Union gunboat sunk in the Yazoo River Dec. 12, 1862. It was the first warship ever sunk by an electrically detonated mine, called at the time a torpedo. It was raised from the river in 1963.

The park encompasses much of the trench lines created around Vicksburg by the defenders of the Confederate States army and the besieging Union forces. Also included in the park are the last remaining section of the canal ordered dug by Union Gen. U.S. Grant in an attempt to bypass the batteries defending the city and the house in downtown Vicksburg where Confederate Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton had his headquarters.