Chris Degernes, area superintendent for Alaska Division of Parks and Recreation on the Kenai Peninsula for the past 15 years, is moving up.
Degernes recently was promoted to the position of chief of field operations for the entire state, a position one step below the top Parks spot in the state. Degernes will work out of the Anchorage field office, and her duties will call for her to travel around the state to supervise all 121 Parks units.
"She will act as the deputy director of State Parks," Parks Director Gary Morrison said Wednesday.
Degernes began her new job Monday. Her duties will include overseeing the seven regional Parks superintendents in the state, as well as acting as Morrison's chief deputy.
Degernes was named to replace Pete Panarese, who retired after 28 years with the division. Morrison said she was selected from a pool of applicants that came from a number of departments within state government. He said Wednesday that Degernes was chosen because of her communication skills as well as her knowledge the Parks system.
"There were some applicants that had good communication and management skills," Morrison said. "Chris had those characteristics as well as being familiar with Parks."
Degernes began her career with Parks in 1981 as a park technician. She worked her way up through the jobs of park ranger and district ranger before being named the Kenai area superintendent in 1989. Before joining Parks, she also worked for the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
On Wednesday, Degernes said she's excited to be in her new position, and feels like she can bring a unique perspective to the director's office.
"It's really the first time someone who came from working their way up all the way from the field had a chance to get this job," she said.
The fact that she knows what it's like to do the various jobs of Parks field employees is what Degernes said she believes is her biggest asset.
"I really know Parks field operations. I know what it's like to clean a restroom, to have to haul someone to jail, I understand what it's like," she said.
Since she's spent her entire career with Parks on the Kenai Peninsula, Degernes said one of the biggest challenges she'll have to face will be learning about the other areas of Alaska.
"I'll need to learn who are the people in the areas, who are the players, what the issues are," she said.
Her first step toward that will be an upcoming trip to Southeast, where she'll get a first-hand look at Parks operations in that part of the state.
"It will be my first introduction to those people and places," she said.
Although she's excited about the opportunity to move up to her new job, Degernes said she had mixed feelings about leaving the peninsula for Anchorage. However, she said she plans on visiting the area often.
"I'm here to work, where I'll do my living is on the Kenai," she said.
As for who will replace her on the peninsula, Morrison said that position has yet to be filled. He said advertising for the new area superintendent has just begun, and expects a new superintendent will be named within a couple weeks.
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