Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Park Celebrates Tourism Week with Local Communities

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is pleased to announce the selection of Joy Absher as the 2018 “Employee of the Year” in concert with celebrating Tourism Week with local communities. This marks the 35th anniversary of an important partnership between the park and its neighboring communities which recognizes the outstanding work of park employees in all disciplines. A public event will be held on Tuesday, May 7 at 11:30 a.m. on the lawn at Park Headquarters near Gatlinburg, TN.

“Joy’s performance as the Tennessee Education Branch lead is extraordinary,” stated Education Branch Chief Susan Sachs. “She is the lead for the Pi Beta Phi partnership, coordinates a robust Teachers-in-Parks summer program, and leads in-depth programs for the local Boys and Girls clubs in the region. She constantly strives to find ways to enhance the Education operation in Tennessee.”

Serving as a Resource Education Park Ranger, Joy is responsible for helping youth understand the natural world around them by illustrating how they are interconnected to their environment. In her role as Tennessee Education Branch lead, Joy serves approximately 10,000 students each year through resource education programming. Her goal is to transform students into park stewards with a genuine interest and appreciation for our National Parks.

“Joy’s impact on the thousands of youth who visit the National Park is immeasurable,” said Superintended Cassius Cash. “She transforms students through thought-provoking programs enabling students to connect to the natural world. Through her work, Joy is ensuring that the National Park Service and the Smokies remains relevant for the next 100 years.”

In addition to her education work, Joy serves as a National Park Service Operational Leadership instructor and provides training to approximately four additional parks across the service each year. Throughout her career at the Smokies, Joy has stepped in to serve in multiple capacities when positions have become vacant, including serving as the Acting Education Branch Chief and recently as the Acting Concessions Specialist. She serves as a mentor to all her coworkers by sharing her years of institutional knowledge and offering a helping hand to anyone in need.

“Joy’s performance of her job duties is superb at all levels,” said Acting Chief of Interpretation Stephanie Kyriazis. “She represents the best of the best within the National Park Service-thoughtful, caring, and dedicated.”

Joy lives in Sevierville, TN and has worked permanently at Great Smoky Mountains National Park since 2010. Joy grew up in Wilkesboro, NC and attended Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC. When Joy is not at work she loves to bake cookies, listen to live music, travel, hike, and enjoy living in the moment.

The annual event, sponsored by the Smoky Mountain Tourism and Development Council, will also observe National Tourism Week. In conjunction with this observance, a visiting family to the Smokies will be selected to participate as “Tourist Family of the Day.”  Jimbo Whaley, singer/songwriter and General Manager at Hearthside Rentals, will serve as the event emcee.

Co-hosts of the event include Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, Sevierville Chamber of Commerce, Sevier County and Smoky Mountains Tourism Development Council.  Additional contributions provided by Blount County Partnership and Cocke County Partnership.


Release Date:   May 2, 2019



Dana Soehn, 865-436-1207, [email protected]

Jamie Sanders, 865-436-1203, [email protected]