SAN ANGELO, Texas – Texas A&M Forest Service held the agency’s annual personnel meeting today in San Angelo, Texas. Agency employees gathered from across the state to recognize accomplishments of the past year and employee achievements.
Texas A&M Forest Service Director Al Davis emphasized his pride in the agency’s work and the annual meeting being an opportunity to highlight the agency’s progress while setting goals for 2024.
“Our agency has seen many changes and improvements throughout the year, and this year’s personnel meeting was a great opportunity to reflect on our development, recognize the hard work of the agency’s employees and look forward to the year ahead,” said Davis.
Additionally, Davis shared his anticipation about the agency’s new recruiting efforts, as the state legislature recently authorized funding for the agency to hire 40 new employees this fiscal year.
“As we look to expand Texas A&M Forest Service’s workforce, our annual meeting served as an opportunity to reflect on our agency’s values of leadership, excellence, accountability, duty and service,” said Davis. “We look forward to expanding our workforce to continue our service to the state of Texas.”
The meeting also focused on the vision Davis has for the agency. Since assuming the position of director in June 2023, after serving as interim director for two years prior, Davis plans to continue his development with agency recruiting, retention and safety. Also, Davis shared with the agency the three core values of conservation, protection and leadership.
During the meeting, agency leadership recognized 52 employees with more than five years of service, including five employees with 25 years of service or more: Kevin Matthews, Resource Specialist in Pittsburg, for 25 years of service; Dina Nutall, Business Associate in College Station, for 25 years of service; Tina Yount, Business Associate in Lufkin, for 25 years of service; Robert Edmonson, Biologist in Johnson City, for 30 years of service; and Tammy Russell, Business Associate in Conroe, for 30 years of service.
Scharise Phariss, Business Assistant in Merkel, received the Director’s Award for Support Staff Field. Phariss plays an instrumental role in the hiring, onboarding and development of new employees in the Merkel branch. Phariss has been known to create impactful relationships within the agency and with its external partners, all while being a full-time college student.
Jason Calvet, Regional Fire Coordinator in Houston, received the Director’s Award for Support Staff Professional. Calvet serves as a prominent ambassador for the agency within his community, as he has responded to fires throughout the Texas panhandle. Calvet is also responsible for successful internal employee development by introducing West Texas agency employees to the forestry practices of East Texas.
Tana Chappell, Administrative Associate in College Station, received the Director’s Award for Support Staff Office. Chappell has been an employee of Texas A&M Forest Service for more than 16 years and is an employee that works far beyond the title of her position. By rarely saying “no,” Chappell has created an efficient and caring environment for the purchasing department.
Jacey Tosh, Program Coordinator in Dallas, received the D.A. “Andy” Anderson Outreach and Education Award for her passion for forest conservation education which she has helped make more accessible throughout Texas. Tosh aided in the development and promotion of the Texas Forest Literacy Plan, a forest and nature-based education curriculum in Texas public schools.
Dan Gaskins, Staff Forester in Kerrville, received the Bruce Miles Natural Resource Professional Award. Gaskins routinely conducts forest inventory and analysis throughout the state, and serves as a leading mentor for many employees under him and come in contact with him.
Seth Morris, Resource Specialist in Merkel, received the Charles Krenek Award for Resource Specialist. Morris has provided substantial support to internal training for new employees by co-developing a new employee job-aid. Externally, Morris has formed strong relationships with more than 30 fire departments, assisting with volunteer fire department grants, equipment allocation and the rural volunteer fire department insurance program.
The Virtually Wild! Texas program was recognized as the agency’s best interdivisional project with the Director’s Award for Team Effort. The program provides accessible forest conservation and natural resource education for classrooms and students learning from home and in healthcare facilities with virtual field trips. One of the most successful sessions included a presentation on the use of drones in forest management, reaching more than 350 students and teachers across the state.
Team members are Mike Carter, Resource Specialist; Matt Ford, Regional Wildland Urban Interface Coordinator; Stuart Morris, Regional Wildland Urban Interface Coordinator; Connor Murname, District Forester; Mike Sills, Staff Forester; Shruthi Srinivasan, Geospatial Analyst; and Donna Work, Biologist.