GATLINBURG, Tennessee — Lisa Hendy is the new Chief Ranger of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in April, the first woman to hold that post in the Smokies.

While the park has had female rangers for many years, including female supervisors in the Law Enforcement Division, none has held the chief ranger post. 

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The Chattanooga native, who started the job on Monday, had her first backcountry experiences in the Smokies when she backpacked there in her youth, a news release from the park said. 

She was previously the chief ranger at Big Bend National Park and has a wealth of experience in the field, including "complex ranger operations" at multiple national parks including Yosemite National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Arches National Park, and Rocky Mountains National Park, the release said. 

"Hendy will oversee employees in the Resource and Visitor Protection Division who perform law enforcement duties, wildland fire operations, emergency medical services, search and rescue operations, backcountry operations, and staff the emergency communications center," the release said. 

Hendy explained she's excited to return to Tennessee for her career. 

“I am looking forward to returning to my home state in the park that provided my first real outdoor adventures,” Hendy said in the release. “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.”

An outdoor enthusiast, she enjoys kayaking, climbing, hiking, and canyoneering.

As the Chief Ranger of Big Bend, "she has fostered inter-agency partnerships with local, state, federal, and international organizations to manage law enforcement and wildland fire operations." 

In the release, Cassius Cash, the park's superintendent, praised her leadership experience.

“Lisa has demonstrated incredible leadership in managing law enforcement, fire, and search and rescue operations at some of the nation’s busiest parks," Cash said. “She’s built strong programs by investing in local partnerships with neighboring agencies to help make areas safer for visitors and residents. She is going to be a great addition to the park’s management team.”

She has served in regional and national leadership roles as a member of various groups, the release said, including the Intermountain Special Events and Tactics Team, National Search and Rescue Working Group, Pacific West and Intermountain Incident Management Teams, National Drowning Prevention Advisory Board, National Preventative Search and Rescue Working Group, and a lead instructor for National Technical Rescue Training.

Hendy has received several awards for her work as well, including the Harry Yount National Park Ranger Award in 2011, the release said, "one of the highest recognitions that a park ranger can receive honoring excellence in protecting resources and serving visitors."

She received an Intermountain Region Exemplary Service Award in 2007 for life-saving efforts in Grand Canyon National Park, according to the release. 

She is a certified paramedic and has certifications as a structural firefighter, wildland firefighter, aviation manager, technical and swiftwater rescuer, and several leadership roles for incident management teams, in addition to her federal law enforcement commission. 

Hendy majored in Park and Recreation Management at Auburn University, where she received her Bachelor of Science Degree. She received her Master of Science Degree from Utah State University in Biomechanics and Exercise Physiology, according to the release.