Tom Jackson, who capped a 27-year career in public service as west district superintendent, retired from the state parks system last week. Jackson, who also served as a ranger, superintendent and chief ranger, was described as a “consummate park professional” at a retirement luncheon in his honor.
“Tom has never forgotten what it’s like to be a ranger,” said Mike Lambert, chief of operations. “And, he would always express concern first for his staff.”
A graduate of Knoxville High School and Appalachian State University, Jackson began his career at Hanging Rock State Park in 1985. After stints as a Mecklenburg County park ranger and Biltmore Forest public safety officer, he returned to Hanging Rock in 1991. He served as a ranger at Jordan Lake and park superintendent at Falls Lake before being named chief ranger in 2000 responsible for law enforcement and training across the system. He was named west district superintendent in 2005, supervising 11 state parks and seven state natural areas. During his tenure, parks at Chimney Rock, Elk Knob and Grandfather Mountain were created.
In 1992, Jackson was honored with a Special Achievement Award for developing volunteer and campground host programs, and he was given special recognition in 1994 for arranging specialized training at Jordan Lake. Lewis Ledford, state parks director, noted that Jackson repeatedly impressed supervisors, with one describing him as “exceptionally motivated, highly skilled and always capable.”
Jackson said he had much to be thankful for “in a profession that can make a difference in people’s lives…I’m thankful for park staff members that, when awakened in the night, do not hesitate to respond if they learn someone needs their help.”