Meet David Vela
Former Acting Director of the United States National Park Service
Appointed by President Donald Trump, David Vela is the former Acting Director of the United States National Park Service and Founder of Vela Heritage Consulting.
Over the course of his thirty-eight years of public service, David Vela made significant achievements and contributions at the state, national, and international level. During his thirty years in the National Park Service, he led efforts to protect our nation’s most special places while engaging youth and underserved communities.
David was the first Latino to be nominated by the President of the United States to serve as Director of the National Park Service. Prior to his retirement in September 2020, he served as Deputy Director, Exercising the Authority of the Director. He also served as Chair for the Committee for the Preservation of the White House.
While in his position, David led efforts to prepare the NPS for a second century of service. Through the development of “NPS NEXT, A Second Century of Service” initiative, he sought to modernize the business practices of the agency, create a second century visitor experience, generate the next generation of diverse conservation stewards and workforce, and enhance through science the agency’s resource stewardship mission.
Previous executive and leadership assignments in the NPS included Associate Director for Workforce, Relevancy and Inclusion, Regional Director of the Southeast Region, and Superintendent of four national park units to include Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. He also served as Director of the Texas Child Support program under the Attorney General of Texas.
David is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Recreation and Parks. He is the recipient of numerous awards both within and outside of the National Park Service for leadership and performance excellence to include the U.S. Department of the Interior Meritorious Service Award “In recognition of his outstanding performance and strategic leadership for the National Park Service” and the Clemson University Walter T. Cox Award.
In retirement, David serves on a number of national nonprofit boards to include the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation Board of Trustees and the National Park Foundation National Council. He is also a national motivational and public speaker inspiring the next generation of diverse conservation stewards, advocates, and workforce. He is the recent author of Hola Ranger, My Journey Through The National Parks. David and his wife Melissa have two children Christina and Anthony and eight grandchildren.