The Manzanar Committee congratulates and extends its best wishes to Bernadette Johnson, superintendent, Manzanar National Historic Site, upon her retirement from the National Park Service on Nov. 8.
Johnson, who served as superintendent at Manzanar beginning in June 2014, is finishing her career after 31 years of federal service. She has previously worked with the National Park Service Division of Interpretation and Visitor Services in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at Grand Canyon National Park and at Glacier National Park.
She then worked in several positions with the Bureau of Land Management before returning to the National Park Service at Manzanar.
“On behalf of the Manzanar Committee, I want to thank Bernardette for her work at Manzanar,” said Manzanar Committee Co-Chairman Bruce Embrey. “Honestly, we have been pleased and very fortunate to have superintendents at Manzanar who have collaborated with, and responded to community input.”
Embrey said Johnson has brought her own special touches to Manzanar.
“It’s no small matter that she has a long history in Payahuunadü (Owens Valley), and comes to Manzanar with both a ‘local’ and a National Park Service viewpoint,” he said.
He said Johnson helped solidify many of the projects at Manzanar, and has worked closely with the committee to “professionalize” many aspects of the committee’s annual Manzanar Pilgrimage.
“Following up on former Superintendent Les Inafuku’s efforts to ensure that our community was safe at the Pilgrimage, she helped us handle many health and safety issues,” Embrey said.
Embrey noted that the Manzanar Committee has worked closely with every superintendent and the staff since Manzanar became a national historic site in 1992.
“Naturally, given the nature of our relationship to the site, having lobbied for, and helping shape the site’s foundations, we have some pretty strong opinions,” he said.
Embrey said there always is, and will be creative tensions between the National Park Service and the Manzanar Committee.
“This is to be expected,” he said, “and I’m sure it exists at other sites, as well. I think it’s useful for all stakeholders to reflect on, and draw lessons from, the changing of the guard.”
“Clearly, we believe our community must have, and needs to have, input on the work at Manzanar, beyond a promotional role,” he added. “We look forward to continuing our work with the National Park Service to work out how we all can make the Manzanar National Historic Site an impactful, and enriching place for all.”