North Carolina GN - For the first time, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has announced its next chief ranger will be a woman. The park, which straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, is the most visited national park in the United States.

Lisa Hendy, a Tennessee native, has been selected to assume the duties of chief ranger in April. Hendy is currently the chief ranger at Big Bend National Park in Texas. She has experience working at some of the most well-known parks in the United States, including Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon National Park. “I am looking forward to returning to my home state in the park that provided my first real outdoor adventures,” Hendy said. “It will be a pleasure to be involved in the efforts to protect a place that was so instrumental in defining my passions and ultimately my career.”

A park’s chief ranger oversees the division of the park that preforms law enforcement duties, wildland fire operations, emergency medical services, search and rescue operations, backcountry operations, and is responsible for staffing the emergency communications center, according to the national parks service. Approximately 240 permanent and more than 80 seasonal employees work at the park.  Hendy is also the 2011 recipient of a prestigious peer-nominated award, the Harry Yount National Park Ranger Award -- one of the highest honors a park ranger can receive. In addition, she received an Intermountain Region Exemplary Service Award in 2007 for lifesaving efforts within Grand Canyon National Park, according to the national parks service. “Lisa has demonstrated incredible leadership in managing law enforcement, fire, and search and rescue operations at some of the nation’s busiest parks,” National Park Service Superintendent Cassius Cash said in a statement.

“She’s built strong programs by investing in local partnerships with neighboring agencies to help make areas safer for visitors and residents.” Hendy is also a certified paramedic, structural firefighter, wildland firefighter, aviation manager, and technical and swiftwater rescuer.

“She is going to be a great addition to the park’s management team,” Cash adds.