‘Lucky and grateful’ Mount Rainier superintendent retires

Randy King has retired as superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park, a job he felt “lucky” to have.

King’s career of 40-plus years with the National Park Service included the last 14 years at Mount Rainier, seven of them as superintendent.

“I’m so lucky and grateful to be in this position. It’s a privilege to serve the public,” said King, then 58, as he was finishing his first full year as superintendent in 2012.

That first year was marred by the deaths of five park employees, two of them in emotionally charged tragedies. Rangers Margaret Anderson, who was killed on New Year’s Day by a fugitive gunman in the park, and Nick Hall, who fell to his death while helping rescue mountain climbers, died in the line of duty. Three other workers died of natural causes.

King spoke publicly about the traumatic impacts of the deaths on the park’s staff. “It just takes time to process and deal with the losses we’ve felt,” he said.

Also in 2012, the park experienced five deaths of climbers and other visitors in accidents. There could have been more, but two snowboarders stranded on the mountain for two nights by stormy weather finally made it out alive with the help of a search and rescue effort by park personnel.

Park Service officials said King’s “charisma, leadership” and familiarity with Mount Rainier and the surrounding area made him a natural choice to manage the 235,625-acre park.

King became deputy superintendent in 2003. Before then, his Park Service assignments were at six national parks and the agency’s Intermountain Regional Office. He also participated in a six-month work exchange with Australia’s Department of Conservation and Land Management, working as the district operations officer for that country’s Shark Bay World Heritage Area and adjacent parks.

He and his wife, Sally, who retired as a kindergarten teacher in the Eatonville School District, have three children who attended schools there.

“We love Eatonville. It’s a great place to live,” King said in an interview with The Dispatch in 2012.

In his role as superintendent, King was an advocate of the relationships between the park and surrounding communities and their connections in the local economy.

King grew up with a love of the outdoors and turned that into a virtually lifelong vocation.

“If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said.

King, whose last day on the job was Jan. 2, is retiring at a time when Mount Rainier and the Park Service are grappling with insufficient funding for backlogs of maintenance and other projects. The Trump administration’s Interior Department, which oversees the nation’s parks, has proposed dramatic increases in peak-season entrance fees for visitors. Single-day vehicle passes could cost $70 starting this summer at Mount Rainier. The proposal has drawn a mixed reaction from the public, with some saying it will price some people out of the park’s outdoor experiences and others calling the increase justified in order to maintain the park for its 1 million-plus-a-year visltors.

Chris Jenkins, who begins his new duties in March, has been named by the Park Service as King’s successor.

Randy King has retired after a 40-year career in the National Park Service, including the last seven years as superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park.