Wilson’s Creek Battlefield Supt. Hillmer sets sail

Ted Hillmer is officially retired after a 44-year career with the federal government. Friday, Jan. 3, was the last day on the job for the now former superintendent of Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Park.
Hillmer, 68, began his career as an engineer with the Environmental Protection Agency, and was helping to build wastewater treatment facilities for cities across the country. One of the cities was near Zion National Park. It was there he became interested in working for the National Park Service.
“At that time, because I had to deal with the city, I also had to deal with Zion National Park,” he said, “and I came across Zion and I thought, ‘This is kind of a fun thing. What is this called, Park Service? I never heard about it before.’”
Hillmer contacted the Park Service’s office in Denver, Colo., and they eventually hired him to be the project engineer for construction of the visitors’ center and maintenance complex at a place he’d never heard of before: Wilson’s Creek, near Republic.
“I had no idea where Republic, Mo. was at, because I was in California at that time,” he said. Still, he agreed to go.
“(They asked), ‘Would you be willing to come out and be the project engineer of the visitor’s center, and also some maintenance complexes, roads and things like that?’ And I said, ‘That’d be great. I’d be more than happy to leave (the) EPA.’ And, I came out there at that time to be the project manager, and that was my first taste of the National Park Service, about three years into my government service.”
Though he was in the National Park Service, Hillmer didn’t start working in parks right away. He worked in regional offices in Washington D.C., Philadelphia and Omaha. He eventually transferred into a position at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Center, in Thousand Oaks, Calif. In 2003, however, his path led him back to Wilson’s Creek.
“This job came open here to be the superintendent, and I said, ‘I’d love to come back because I’ve been there before; I know what I’m getting into,” he said. “The moral of the story is, don’t throw your old ties away, because you get to wear them again. So, I got to wear my old tie again, and I came back here and I’ve been here for 17 years.”
For Hillmer, the best part about working at Wilson’s Creek has been the relationships he’s forged, not only with his staff, but the local communities as well.
“To me … the most enjoyable part of the job here that I’ve really enjoyed, is working with communities,” he said. “Whether that’s Republic, whether that’s Battlefield, whether that’s the city of Springfield, whether that’s Greene County or Christian County, it’s been great … forming those relationships with different people to make something happen. I think that’s where my greatest joy is, working with other people.”
Hillmer isn’t sure yet about what he wants to do in his retirement, but he does know he wants to be active, and he hopes to do some good in the community.
“I’m not one of those people that can just stay home and maybe travel for several months out of the year,” he said. “I can’t stay home and watch TV; I’ve got to do something. So, I still want to be active; I still want to give back to the community. I’ve got a couple of feelers out there right now, and I don’t know if any of those will bite, but I’m going to stay in the area.”
While Hillmer will miss his role as superintendent, he said he is happy because he knows the park is in good hands.
“I’ll miss being involved in (Wilson’s Creek),” he said, “but at the same time, there’s a great group of people that will pick up that flag, so to speak, and do a better job than I did, and that’s what’s going to be neat in the future because the best years of the park are ahead of us. That’s what’s going to be neat about it, because the group that comes in here after me is going to do a great job of protecting that resource.”



Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


Please Login for Premium Content