COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M Forest Service held the agency’s annual personnel meeting this week. Agency employees gathered virtually from across the state to recognize accomplishments of the past year and employee achievements.
Texas A&M Forest Service Interim Director Al Davis said he’s proud of the agency’s work and the annual meeting is an opportunity to highlight the agency’s progress while setting the tone for 2023.
“As an agency, we have done a lot of work in conservation this past year, and we have been called upon to support various state missions, respond across our state for wildfires, natural disasters and other events that align with our all-hazards capabilities,” Davis said. “In every instance, we have continued to deliver timely, high-caliber response, training and technical assistance across the state of Texas and in several states across the U.S.”
The program included a review of the 2022 wildfire season and the statewide drought, a recap of the agency’s emerald ash borer trapping program, highlights from the Southeast Arson Task Force Meeting, details about opportunities in the mass timber market and a summary of funding awarded through the agency’s capacity building program, as well as keynote remarks from Davis.
During the meeting, agency leadership recognized 58 employees with more than five years of service, including eight employees with 25 years of service or more: Rich Gray, Chief Regional Fire Coordinator in College Station, for 25 years of service; Suanna Jacobs, Business Associate in Linden, for 25 years of service; Dennis Johnson, Maintenance Worker in Lufkin, for 25 years of service; Teresa Miller, Administrative Associate in Lufkin, for 25 years of service; Fred Raley, Tree Improvement Coordinator in College Station, for 25 years of service; Curt Stripling, Geospatial Systems Coordinator in College Station, for 25 years of service; Karen Stripling, Business Associate in Lufkin, for 30 years of service; and Bill Oates, Associate Director, for 40 years of service.
Three employees, Tim Wells, Chloe Lake and Kody Hendrickson, all Resource Specialists from Amarillo, received the agency’s Good Samaritan Award for their actions in helping law enforcement manage a fatal accident scene. Wells, Lake and Hendrickson drove up on a four-vehicle collision that had just occurred, and all four vehicles were on fire when they arrived. They assisted with patient care and traffic control and secured a medevac landing zone at the scene.
Director’s Awards were presented to employees who consistently deliver excellent service above-and-beyond regular job duties.
Josh Mizrany, Law Enforcement Investigator in Huntsville, was presented the Director’s Award for Support Staff Field for his efforts to revise the Texas Natural Resources Code as it relates to timber theft.
Emily Mitchell, Geospatial Analyst in Mineral Wells, received the Director’s Award for Support Staff Professional. Mitchell started her career with Texas A&M Forest Service as a student worker in the Emergency Operations Center before being hired full time after graduating from college. She serves on the Lone Star State Type 2 Initial Attack Crew, the Lone Star State Incident Management Team and Sisters in Fire. Her work with field staff and agency cooperators has been instrumental during incident response.
Melissa Yeldell, Administrative Assistant in College Station, was presented the Director’s Award for Support Office Staff in recognition of her work to support the departments, programs and staff at headquarters, as well as the Forest Science Lab, Western Gulf Forest Tree Improvement Program and Magnolia Springs Seed Orchard. She served as a logistics manager for the COVID warehouse in San Antonio during the height of the pandemic and helped with operations at Ford Park during Hurricane Laura.
Mac Martin, Program Specialist in College Station, received the D.A. “Andy” Anderson Information and Education Award for his work in reaching non-traditional partners and engaging them in conservation efforts. Martin developed Green Futures — the Corporate Sustainability Partnership, which connects corporate funding to nonprofit organizations to implement urban forestry projects in areas in need of ecosystem benefits provided by trees and forests.
Erin Davis, Staff Forester in Kerrville, was recognized with the Bruce Miles Natural Resource Professional Award for her initiative to serve in a greater capacity each year, while providing technical assistance to landowners with forest health issues in Central Texas. Davis promotes natural resource management and the forestry profession to women across the state, helps coordinate Women in the Woods workshops and helps lead the Women in Conservation camp.
Dee Bell, Resource Specialist in Palestine, received the Charles Krenek Award for Resource Specialist for his role in supporting all agency programs, including working with landowners and fire departments, wildland firefighting and disaster response. Bell is a mentor to others and serves as the District Fire Coordinator while overseeing the district reforestation program.
The After the Fire Recovery Workshops were recognized as the agency’s best interdivisional project with the Director’s Award for Team Effort. The workshops help landowners evaluate their losses and plan for landscape and ecosystem recovery following wildfires. Workshops were held in Stephenville, Abilene, Carbon and Glen Rose, with more than 125 people attending.
Team members are Karl Flocke, Woodland Ecologist; Robert Hawthorne; Staff Forester; Jeff McFall, Staff Forester; Stuart Morris, Regional Wildland Urban Interface Coordinator; Kimberlee Peterson, Woodland Ecologist; Kim Prichard, Program Specialist; and Adam Turner, Regional Wildland Urban Interface Coordinator.
–Texas A&M Forest Service