Acting National Park Service director gets new role overseeing 2026 Independence Day celebration

Acting National Park Service director gets new role overseeing 2026 Independence Day celebration

Daniel Smith, the acting National Park Service (NPS) director the Trump administration pulled out of retirement, will soon take on a new role: overseeing Fourth of July celebrations seven years from now.

“In the coming days, I will begin a new role as special assistant to the director leading NPS efforts on the 250th commemoration of our nation’s independence,” read an internal memo obtained by The Hill.

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The Trump administration spent millions this past Fourth of July to update the annual Washington, D.C., fireworks show and parade. The president has since promised to continue the tradition.

"Under his leadership, the National Park Service has expanded recreational opportunities and access for visitors to their parks and focused the bureau’s efforts on improving park infrastructure that is critical to the visitor experience. We appreciate his hard work and good humor and we look forward to his continued service to the nation and America’s national parks," a NPS Spokesperson told The Hill in a statement.

In the memo sent to NPS employees Monday, Smith called his role as deputy secretary — exercising the authority of the director — “the highlight” of his career. 

Smith, who was appointed to lead the agency in January 2018, was never confirmed by the Senate. He previously retired in 2014 after serving as superintendent of Colonial National Historical Park in Virginia for a decade.

David Vela, the former superintendent of Grand Teton National Park with 28 years at the agency, will become the NPS's newest acting director, according to the memo.

Vela has since April served as a deputy director at the NPS. He was previously formally nominated in the summer of 2018 to be NPS director but was never confirmed by the Senate. The NPS director position has been vacant since Jonathan Jarvis, who was director throughout the Obama administration, left the post in January 2017.

“David and I greatly appreciate your support and we are grateful for your steadfast dedication and commitment to the mission of the National Park Service,” Smith wrote.