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Peggy O'Dell pictured at the National World War II Memorial in Washington two years ago. O'Dell today began her new position as deputy director in the National Park Service.
Peggy O'Dell pictured at the National World War II Memorial in Washington two years ago. O'Dell today began her new position as deputy director in the National Park Service.

WASHINGTON -- In 1974, Peggy O'Dell's job as a summer worker at the Gateway Arch consisted mainly of pointing people in the right direction.

Her latest position at the National Park Service entails considerably more authority: helping craft the agency's $3 billion budget; managing seven regional supervisors and 20,000 employees at nearly 400 parks and park offices; and working to protect some 84 million acres of national park land.

O'Dell started this morning as the Park Service's deputy director of operations, a job in which she will oversee "every aspect of park operations," the Park Service said in a release announcing her appointment.

"Peggy O'Dell knows how to get things done," Park Service director Jon Jarvis said in a statement.

In her Park Service career, O'Dell was superintendent at the Gateway Arch from 2004 to 2007. She has worked at national parks around the country and most recently was a regional director in charge of Washington's monuments and the National Mall.

She noted in a statement that she was eager to lead the Park Service toward its 100-year anniversary in 2016.

O'Dell, who grew up in Webster Groves, was a student at University of Missouri-St. Louis when a friend told her that the Gateway Arch was accepting applications for summer work.

A year later, she was a park ranger on the way to becoming a supervisor at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.

She and her husband, Ben, also a Park Service employee, have two daughters and a son.

O'Dell will have budget oversight at a time when hundreds of millions of dollars are being sought from public and private interests for a grand plan to reshape the Gateway Arch grounds.   

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