VALLEY FORGE - Michael A. Caldwell, 36, experienced his first day on the job yesterday as the new superintendent of Valley Forge National Historical Park, of which he said, "It was great.
"I got to meet most of the employees and a lot of the volunteers. I think the number of volunteers indicates this is a special place to a lot of people. And the snow was nothing for me, coming from Whitesborough, NY."
Caldwell, who goes by "Mike," now dons the tan and olive green ranger uniform, having replaced Arthur L. Stewart, superintendent at Valley Forge National Historical Park for nearly a decade.
After graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Colo., in 1991 with a BA in history and political science, Caldwell received a master's of public administration degree from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.
He said his interests in parks, in general, derive from his interests in history, government and civil service, stating, "Since I was young, I wanted to do something in the public service sector and my father was in the National Park Service, and worked at the Mesa Verde National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park [both located in Colorado] before retiring."
What attracted Caldwell to Valley Forge National Historical Park is his great interest in the American Revolution in general.
"From a family perspective, we've always enjoyed the area around here. We visited the park a few times," he said.
Caldwell has been married to Debbie, 37, for 13 years, and they have three children: Ryan, 9, Michaela, 7, and Reese, 4, and, the family dog (a mixed beagle named Bell: 12 in "human years"), all of whom will move to the area from New York after this school year.
Caldwell's last place of employment was the Fort Stanwix National Monument in Rome, NY, which is about 45 miles east of Syracuse.
Of his new duties, Caldwell said he will "oversee the operation as far as what people experience when the view the 150 structures and natural features of the park, supervise the maintenance of the historic sites and natural resources - such as several exotic species of plants - ensure the museum collections are well kept, and, overall, to provide leadership and direction," surmising the job is comparable to that of a chief executive within an organization.
"The general management plan will be occupying my attentions right away," said Caldwell. "We have a number of projects working with lining up funding for historic structures for the next two or three years, many of which may be funded by annual requests we will file after we identify our list of needs.
"One of the ideas we have thought of - we need to look at innovative ways to maintain the structures and run the buildings - is to possibly have non-profit groups as tenants.
Caldwell said he has a strong belief in partnerships being conducive to solving funding quandaries for institutions such as Valley Forge National Historical Park.
"The National Park Service continually works closely with local groups, volunteers, government bodies, you name it. Partnerships are ideal and necessary for the solutions we will need."
Those with suggestions and interested non-profit groups can contact Caldwell at Mike_Caldwell@nps.gov or fax him at 610-783-1038.
The winter may finally be kicking in, but remember that many have had it far worse - and with little or no footwear - around the Valley Forge area only two and a half centuries ago; the following was found at http://www.nps.gov/vafo/index.htm:
The men and women of the Continental Army were ordinary men and women - like many of us, but these everyday men and women were thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Valley Forge National Historical Park commemorates more than the collective sacrifices and dedication of the Revolutionary War generation, it pays homage to the ability of everyday Americans to pull together and overcome adversity during extraordinary times.
Despite the privations suffered by the army at Valley Forge, Washington and his generals built a unified professional military organization that ultimately enabled the Continental Army to triumph over the British.
Perhaps one of Washington's soldiers said it best when he described his reasons for not abandoning the field despite the harsh conditions: "We had engaged in the defense of our wounded country and . . . we were determined to persevere." Private Joseph Plumb Martin, 8th Connecticut regiment, December 1777.
Valley Forge National Historical Park is located at Route 23 and N. Gulph Road, Valley Forge, Pa.