Recipient Biography

William C. "Bill" Walters

William C. "Bill" Walters (1942-      ) received the Pugsley Medal in 1988 "in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the Indiana state parks system." He was born to humble and hard-working parents in Chicago, Illinois. His parents instilled in him the values of integrity, honesty, compassion, fairness, and hard work. After moving to Virginia and Texas as a youth, his family settled in Kankakee, Illinois, where he graduated from high school. Walters' interest in parks was nurtured at an early age. While working during high school for the Kankakee Park District, the director encouraged him to pursue park work as a career. That early nudge led him to the University of Illinois.
He graduated from the University of Illinois with a B.S. in 1964 and extended his education by receiving a master's degree in park administration from that institution in 1967. While working on his master's degree, he was employed by the 4,000-member First United Methodist Church of Champaign, Illinois, as director of youth and recreation. This experience and the individuals he worked with further solidified his conviction that he had selected the right field for a career.
Walters' park career began with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources as a state recreation specialist in the four-person Division of Outdoor Recreation. This new position was established to administer the newly-created Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) program on the state level. Walters organized the program and was the evangelist for it throughout Indiana, meeting with local park and recreation officials to interest them in the program and ensure strong applications were submitted. It provided Walters with an opportunity to develop organizational skills in program management that would serve him well throughout his career.
Within two years, his talents were recognized by the director of the Indiana Division of State Parks who asked him to become assistant director of state parks in charge of operations. A year later, the director of the Division of Outdoor Recreation left, and the state was confronted with the potential of losing its eligibility in the LWCF program. Walters was asked to become head of the division and ensure the state did not lose its eligibility. Working with the small four-person staff, he wrote a state recreation plan that received federal approval and secured the state's LWCF eligibility for another five years.
During his tenure as director of the Division of Outdoor Recreation, Walters was successful in establishing the state heritage program, which identifies and protects distinctive natural resources in the state, crafting the state natural streams program and instituting the state trails program.
In 1977, Walters was appointed director of lndiana state parks, a position he held for 12 years. During his tenure, he obtained significant additional funds from the Indiana General Assembly for park improvements, and added programs and services that the state had not previously offered. He expanded the interpretive programs at all state parks, made cross-country skiing and ski rental available at northern Indiana facilities, and added a wide-ranging cultural arts program at all the parks. A number of new state parks were planned, started, or established during his tenure, including the Falls of the Ohio, Prophetstown, and Summit Lake State Parks. He was also successful in using bonding authority for the first time for state parks to significantly improve the lodges and other facilities in a number of them.
In 1989, Jim Ridenour (Pugsley Medal 1993) was selected to be director of the National Park Service (NPS) and asked Walters to come to Washington DC to work with him. Thus, he moved on to the second phase of his career. He first served as assistant director of national recreation programs for the NPS, and then moved to Seattle, Washington as deputy director of the Pacific Northwest region under regional director Chuck Odegaard (Pugsley Medal 1983). When Odegaard became a special assistant to the director, Walters became acting regional director until the NPS reorganized in 1995. At that time, he became the deputy regional director of the expanded Pacific Northwest region that included all the NPS parks and programs in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, Hawaii, Guam and Saipan, and American Samoa. Senator Patty Murray reported in the Congressional Record:
The upheaval created by this reorganization was considerable. His calm voice of reason and genuine compassion made it possible for all of us to  work at funding improvement, efficiency, and value in maintaining an office in the Pacific Northwest. It was through this difficult process that I became acquainted with Bill. Since then, I have witnessed numerous examples of his good judgment and the gracious manner in which he brings people together around thoughtful solutions. He is a master statesman. His rare personal qualities make him a perfect negotiator and an effective steward of the public trust. There is a quiet competence and goodness about this man that enables him to work collaboratively with NGOs, environmental activists, employees, allies, community leaders, and opponents alike. I have always appreciated his honesty and forthright character. Many in the Northwest have come to respect and appreciate Bill's open and engaging manner and professionalism. Bill represents park interests in a way that has made partners out of adversaries. You can't go very far in the Pacific Northwest without seeing examples of Bill's effective problem  solving sound stewardship.
In his position as deputy regional director, Walters was chief operating officer for the region with lead responsibility for resolving many of the most complicated operations issues facing the parks. He was instrumental in finalizing the cooperative agreement with the State of Idaho for the daily management of the City of Rocks National Reserve, a new approach to the management of national park resources. Another example of his ability to effectively deal with difficult issues was his leadership of the negotiating team responsible for converting the Hazlett Warehouse at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park into a $40-million luxury hotel that will result in a projected revenue of $250 million to protect the ships at the park over the 57 years of the life of the lease.
In 2001, Walters planned to retire, but the incoming NPS director, Fran Mainella (Pugsley Medals 1998 and 2007), asked him to delay his retirement to serve as her chief of staff for a one-year period. He agreed to do so. The challenges of that year included dealing with the aftermath of 9/11and an anthrax scare, as well as a variety of significant park issues. During that time, Walters also was heavily involved in a reorganization of the Washington Office.
In November 2002, Walters retired to a home in Brown County, Indiana, which he had purchased in 1970. Soon after his retirement, he was appointed by the Secretary of Interior to a four-year term on the NPS Advisory Board.
Congressman Jim Jontz of Indiana paid tribute to Walters' contributions in the Congressional Record and reflected on time he had spent working as a seasonal employee with Indiana state parks: "There is no question in my mind that the example Bill set as a capable public servant was a positive influence on my eventual decision to enter political life. Bill Walters represented to me then and always has what a professional natural resources manager should be