COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M Forest Service’s Richard Gray received the 2021 Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence for Public Service in Forestry today.
The Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence is the highest employee award given by Texas A&M AgriLife, and Gray received this award for his diverse and extraordinary contributions to Texas A&M Forest Service and to the state and people of Texas.
“Rich Gray’s career exemplifies that of an unsung hero,” said Wes Moorehead, Texas A&M Forest Service Assistant Director. “He is someone who serves behind the scenes, selflessly contributing to the work of Texas A&M Forest Service, the State of Texas, the incident response community and the natural resource world.”
Through his 24-year career with Texas A&M Forest Service, Gray has served in multiple roles. He began his career in 1997 as an Urban Wildland Interface Forester in Conroe but quickly moved to Regional Fire Coordinator for the greater Austin area. Through this role, Gray was responsible for delivering various natural resource and wildfire programs throughout the region.
In 2009, Gray moved to the role of State Fuels Coordinator where he delivered fuels projects across the state through a staff of 10 before moving to the role of Task Force Coordinator in 2012. As Task Force Coordinator, Gray supervised 11 resource specialists responsible for the delivery of fuel treatments, wildland and all hazard training and responding to all hazard and wildfire incidents.
By 2016, Gray moved to the Texas Panhandle as he become the Assistant Chief Regional Fire Coordinator where he oversaw Amarillo, Childress and Lubbock Texas A&M Forest Service office’s wildfire response efforts.
Today, Gray serves the agency as Chief Regional Fire Coordinator. Gray manages the delivery of many agency programs across the entire state and works with partners to review response and preparedness activities. He also provides operational advice to leadership and serves as the operations section chief on the Lone Star State Incident Management Team.
“Some of the most notable Texas A&M Forest Service incidents, restoration efforts, mitigation and prevention practices, partnerships, capacity building efforts and other situations have occurred under Gray’s watch,” said Moorehead. “He has been an undeniable leader in each, exhibiting expert decision-making and people skills.”
Gray has been the lead responder on countless wildfires throughout his career, though notably he lead response on the Bastrop County Complex, Hidden Pines Fire, LIT Ranch Fire and Dumas Complex.
Gray is also responsible for the initial Capital Area Interagency Wildfire and Incident Management Academy in Bastrop and has been instrumental in its continued success for the last 23 years. As a member of the Texas A&M Forest Service Leadership Enrichment Program, he also helped develop the New Supervisor Development Program – contributing to cascaded training – and helping to build the capacity of Texas A&M Forest Service leaders for many years to come.
“Gray’s experience, quiet leadership and ability to build the capacity of others make him one of the invisible driving forces behind so much of the agency’s success over the last few decades,” said Moorehead. “Often serving behind the scenes and during inopportune times and situations, his service, expertise and leadership are not unnoticed.”
As an established and critical leader at Texas A&M Forest Service, Gray’s work in innovative leadership program development and effective, strategic incident response has and will continue to help create a state agency incident response organization to which people want to belong.
“My number one priority is to ensure our response staff and the agency continue to grow our ability to meet the complexity of the changing wildland fire environment and the diverse all hazard incidents we are requested to manage,” said Gray.
Looking forward to the future, Gray says he is excited to see agency staff step up to the numerous challenges they are presented with each day and proud of their excellence in leadership.
“Simply put, it has been an honor and a pleasure to work for Texas A&M Forest Service,” said Gray. “After working for two other state forestry agencies, coming to Texas A&M Forest Service felt like coming home by proving opportunities, mentorship, guidance and more. I hope in return, I have made a positive impact from each of my positions with the agency.”
Meritorious work is awarded through 18 categories by the Vice Chancellor’s Awards in Excellence (VCAIE) Program, which recognizes outstanding achievements by personnel of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M Forest Service, and the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory.
At today’s ceremony, last year’s Texas A&M University System Board of Regents Award recipients were also recognized including Wes Moorehead for his Regent’s Fellow Award. Read more about Moorehead’s award here: https://tfsweb.tamu.edu/
For more about the Vice Chancellor’s Awards, visit the full press release at: https://agrilifetoday.tamu.
–Texas A&M Forest Service Communications