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Background Check: Meet Jonathan Jarvis of the National Park Service


Summer’s in full swing, and unless your family is rather Romney-esque, there’s a chance you’ll be spending some time in one of the country’s hundreds of national parks.

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

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

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?

Jonathan Jarvis is the head of the National Park Service. (For the Post)

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/

Web site: Google Maps. App: Pandora. Magazine: Fine Homebuilding.

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

Am a wood worker 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 schoolteacher, 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

In Bermuda, no short sale

The housing market seems to be recovering. Which means it may be time to buy. And we’ve got the perfect place: The stunning Chelston estate, former home of the U.S. consul general in Bermuda, is still on the market.

This is the 10,000-square-foot bungalow we’ve written about, on a 14-acre compound with guest cottages — three of them with three bedrooms each — and a staff cottage. Did we mention the fireplace on the covered deck by the pool? The vast bay and ocean views?

Chelston is the estate the State Department, in a fit of budgetary panic, sold back in 1999 for a lousy $12 million.

It’s been on the market for quite a while at $45 million — but the real estate agent tells us “there have been multiple inquires and we are working closely with several interested individuals.”

So, what are you waiting for? Interest rates can’t get lower!

The executive payroll

Ever wonder how much White House staffers make?

The administration has released its annual list of staffers — and their salaries. Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett pulls down $172,200 annually, the maximum that any member of Team Obama earns. Others who earn the same amount include chief of staff Jacob Lew, adviser David Plouffe and press secretary Jay Carney. Not too shabby, but it’s still less than the $174,000 that most members of Congress take home.

The staffers earning the least (with titles like “associate director for scheduling correspondence”) make $41,000.

There are 468 names on the list, covering staffers for “the Office of Policy Development, including the Domestic Policy Council and the National Economic Council — along with White House Office employees,” the White House says.

With Emily Heil

The blog:
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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