(Courtesy National Park Service)

Which makes it a good time to chat with Jonathan Jarvis, the head of the National Park Service. The Park Service oversees some 84 million acres of land, from Alaska to the Virgin Islands.

The former ranger tells the Loop about his secret talents (the man knows his way around a dovetail joint) and how he inherited the public-service gene.

Which cabinet secretary would you most like to hang out with, and what would you do?

I already frequently hang out with [Interior] Secretary Ken Salazar as we travel to some of the most beautiful or historic places on the planet. My most favorite thing to do with the secretary is to have a meeting with the local community, wherever we are. We both love to interact with local residents and hear their ideas and concerns.

What’s your favorite non-work-related Web site/app/magazine?

Web site: Google maps; app: Pandora; magazine: Fine Homebuilding

Fill in the blank:People would be surprised to know that I ____ .

Am a woodworker and can hand-cut a dovetail joint.

What’s your dream job?

I have it: director of the National Park Service.

What motivated you to go into public service?

My father was a small town mayor, my mother a school teacher, so public service is in my blood.

Favorite TV show?


Which character from that show do you most identify with?

Jethro Gibbs [the no-nonsense former Marine and team leader played by Mark Harmon].

What subject, other than your work, do you know the most about?

Fly fishing.

What’s the best job you ever had?

Superintendent of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska, the largest park in the system at 13 million acres.

Fill in the blank: I’m scared of ____ .

A future when the public may no longer care about the protection of our national parks, and without that support, they fail to continue to be funded and maintained with the pride and integrity of the last 100 years.

What’s one word you wish people would use to describe you?


You can draft one person in the private sector to come work for the federal government. Who would it be, and what would you have them do?

I would ask [Carlyle Group founder] David Rubenstein to help organize all the sources of funding and the assets of the National Park Service into a sustainable portfolio.

Background Check is a Loop feature in which we grill various government types about their lives on and off the clock. Please send suggestions for future subjects to intheloop@washpost.com.