Board of Directors

The association publishes books, conducts workshops, secures grants, operates a certified guide program, raises funds through bookshop sales, and partners with other organizations to realize the highest quality interpretive support possible. HFPA is a membership organization with supporters throughout the United States. It is governed by an eleven-member board of directors elected by its membership:

  • Jim Beckman (President) is a professor at the University of Central Florida where he was the inaugural chair of the Department of Legal Studies. Previously, he served on the Staff & Faculty of the U.S. Military Academy and as a professor at the University of Tampa. Jim is the author or editor of six books and multiple published articles and book chapters—many of which deal with the rich layered history of Harpers Ferry and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. Jim is also a Certified Park Guide at HFNHP. 

  • Cynthia M. Gayton, Esq., (Vice President) manages Gayton Law in Arlington, VA. Her practice concentrates on small business formation, intellectual property, information technology, and business transactions/contracts. In addition, she has worked for the federal government, in the private sector and for non-profit organizations. Cynthia is the author of “Legal Aspects of Engineering, Design and Innovation.” For three years, she owned a steampunk art gallery in Harpers Ferry, and spends her time between Bolivar, WV, and Arlington, VA.

  • David Gilbert (Secretary) first joined the Harpers Ferry Park Association in 1982. He’s a retired IT Specialist with the federal government. He spent 12 years with the NPS and five years with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). He’s also written two well-known books about Harpers Ferry: “A Walker's Guide to Harpers Ferry” and “Waterpower, Mills, Factories, Machines & Floods at Harpers Ferry, 1762-1991.”

  • Laura Clark (Treasurer) opened The Outfitter at Harpers Ferry in 1996, and has been an active member of the community here ever since. A Certified Public Accountant, she spent 10 years working in mortgage finance, including three years in audit and analyst positions at Freddie Mac. She subsequently served as a Senior Auditor for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in Washington, DC. She has been an active member of the Harpers Ferry Merchants Association and has served on the Harpers Ferry Planning Committee and Board of Appeals. She looks forward to helping the Association manage its finances to maximize our aid to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

  • Doug Perks is a native of Jefferson County, where he served as an educator for 30 years.  He is currently the Historian of the Jefferson County Museum, director and Historian of the Elmwood Cemetery Association, Historian of the Jefferson County Historical Society, and a Certified Park Guide at HFNHP. A frequent lecturer, Doug is a contributing author of The Magazine of the Jefferson County Historical Society, writes the column "Mr. Jefferson's County" in the Jefferson County Historical Society newsletter The Guardian, and contributes the column “History Matters” to the Spirit of Jefferson

  • Mark Elrod retired from the United States Army in 1998 after close to 30 years of active and reserve time in both the Army and Marine Corps, with service as a musician in the 1st Battalion, 3rd Infantry (“The Old Guard”),  the Army’s ceremonial unit at Fort Myer, VA, and the United States Marine Band (“The President’s Own”) in Washington. He is a nationally known military historian with expertise in American long arms used by the Army and Navy in the early to mid-19th century and military music. His passion for the history of Harpers Ferry, both industrial and social, has been a driving force and passion for most of his life.  

  • Jim Jenkins has been a public school teacher and Shepherd University adjunct instructor for 43 years. He received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching from President Bill Clinton. Jim lives in a home built in 1880 which is a ten-minute walk from his beloved Shenandoah River at Harpers Ferry.

  • Ed Wheeless is a professional software engineer currently serving on the Harpers Ferry Town Council, Harpers Ferry Budget and Finance Committee, Harpers Ferry Planning Commission and Harpers Ferry Park Association.  For ten years, he served as chair of the Harpers Ferry Historic Landmarks Commission and now serves as the chair of the Harpers Ferry-Bolivar Historic Town Foundation.

  • Chris Craig is a certified park guide im Harpers Ferry and a long-time volunteer for the Sierra Club and the Trail and Town Alliance of Harpers Ferry and Bolivar. He operated Laurel Lodge B&B in his home for 10 years and is a semi-retired school teacher. Last year, Chris was featured as a guide to Harpers Ferry and the C&O Canal in the WGBH  production "The Great Ride."

  • Sarah Shafer is a US Navy Veteran and the owner and founder of Rations Cafe in Bolivar. She holds graduate degrees in Genetic Engineering and Environmental Education and was formerly a Professor at Lindenwood University outside of St. Louis, MO. She quickly became enamored with the history, nature, and social contributions that Harpers Ferry offered when she moved here. She has found ways for her family (husband and twins) to support the park in various avenues through volunteering and membership.