In honor of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, this blog is featuring our very own Greenbelt National Park. Superintendent Matt Carroll was appointed to the job just last summer, so he’s celebrating an anniversary, too. I asked for an interview and he was happy to help Greenbelters get to know him a bit better.
What impressed me most about Matt is his Westernness. In his career in the Air Force he was stationed for 10 years in Colorado and before that, seven in California. In both locations he was, he tells me, a “heavy volunteer” in the national parks and a “big outdoors fan.” And that’s how this newcomer to the National Park Service landed such a plum job – heavy volunteering paid off.
I was curious about what that means and apparently for him it’s nothing like talking to tourists at the FDR Memorial, something I once did as an NPS volunteer. For Matt it meant doing search and rescue and other safety-related duties directly for the Park Service, and other heavy lifting for nonprofits actively supporting the parks.
After all those years out West Matt came to this area in 2005 for a work assignment at the Pentagon – quite a change. But hey, we have nature here, too, and he found it. While working at the Pentagon he spend his off-hours volunteering with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club in Rock Creek Park , along the C&O Canal, and in the George Washington National Forest.
Then when Matt retired from Air Force in 2014 and wanted to start a second career he naturally looked to the parks – and landed in Greenbelt’s. Of course not everyone thinks of a second career as retirement, and he’s often asked, “What, no world travel?” He prefers to think of it not as retirement but as “ending his military service,” and explains that he’s young enough to have decades to enjoy a second career but old enough to know what he’s passionate about – parks and the outdoors.
Having found his passion AND the perfect job, he feels “Lucky to be paid to do this – it blows my mind.” Sometimes has to break away to go home at night.
Connecting with the Greenbelt Community
Asked if he’s done much exploring of Greenbelt outside of the park, he told me his first year in the job was necessarily focused on the job and learning the inner workings of the NPS. Plus, his family is still unpacking and settling into their Silver Spring home. But throughout his military career Matt always lived in the community, not on base, and he’s eager to make more connections to the Greenbelt community at large, perhaps partnering with Greenbelt events. He and his team rode in our Labor Day Parade soon after his arrival on the job, so he’s off to a great start.