Andrew Philpot, a veteran of state parks and a veteran of the U.S. military, hopes to make Hungry Mother State Park his home for a long time.
The northwest Ohio native was welcomed as the new park manager by the Friends of Hungry Mother with a dinner meeting on Aug. 15. This is his fourth park in Virginia from the eastern shore to the southwest mountains.
The love of parks has been in his blood since childhood, said Philpot, when his family would spend many family vacations and outings in the state parks.
“I really wanted to do something I was passionate about, that I really felt good about,” he said of a career decision. Park service seemed the ideal choice.
Philpot joined the Army in early 2001 and served four years in Korea, Newport News and in North Carolina. After the military he studied natural resources, graduating from Southern Ohio Hocking College, and was recalled into the Army a year later, serving nearly four years inactive duty, a year of it in Iraq.
Between finishing college and being sent to Iraq, Philpot was hired by the forestry branch of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. He worked as a forest officer and wildfire investigator until the job went to full law enforcement with the parks.
Philpot said he didn’t like the aspect of being a law enforcement officer in the parks so he looked for other park work and found it in Virginia, which he says has more of a traditional park ranger.
“I researched Virginia and it seemed like the best fit for me,” he said. “I could be more of a well-rounded park ranger, not just law enforcement.”
His first assignment was at Kiptopeke State Park in the southern end of the Eastern Shore of Virginia and the Delmarva Peninsula in Northampton County. Not far from Virginia Beach, the park was busy with fishermen and commercial watermen, he said.
For two years at Kiptopeke, Philpot said he worked as chief ranger under the legendary Forrest Gladden, who has spent over 45 years in the state parks.
From Kiptopeke, Philpot moved to Fairy Stone State Park in Patrick County, where he was promoted to assistant manager. After two and a half years there, he was promoted to park manager at James River State Park near Lynchburg.
The parks are rated according to complexity in Virginia, said Philpot, and once you are a park manager promotions are to more complicated parks. James River is listed as 13th in complexity while Hungry Mother is third. Former Hungry Mother Park Manger Nate Clark was promoted to Pocahontas State Park, number one on the scale of complexity, Philpot said, and he was offered the job at Hungry Mother.
Philpot said he loved James River for its dark skies, making stargazing a notable event there. James River has been named an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association for its superb night-time viewing, one of only two in Virginia, 44 in the United States and 64 in the world with the designation.
Back in the mountains at a Civilian Conservation Corps-built park like Fairy Stone, Philpot is happy to be at Hungry Mother and looking forward to spending many years here with his family – wife Andria, and sons Ayden, 16, and Anderson, 11, and two dogs. The boys like the area, he said, and are making new friends at their schools in Marion. Andria is working on her bachelor’s degree and serving as a teaching assistant at Northwood Middle School.
“We are excited about being part of the community,” Philpot said. He is impressed with how connected the park is to the town and surrounding communities and plans to encourage that connection.
“We want to be that place where memories are made,” he said of the park. “Everybody seems to have memories of the park and that’s what we want.”
“We are looking to stay. We’re very happy here.”
Projects going on at the park this season include some control replacements at the dam starting this week and replacement of the bridge to the amphitheater beginning in early October. That will require the lake level to be dropped about five feet and take several months to complete. The park is also hiring housekeepers.