Oklahoma SCS/NRCS Retired Employees met at the Golden Corral Buffet at 520 South MacArthur Blvd. in Oklahoma City. Twenty-six people were in attendance. Many attendees arrived early for visiting before the meeting was called to order.
President Chris Shepherd called the meeting to order. Chris asked if anyone knew of retirees needing prayers. Nick Lambeth had to have a partial amputation of his left leg recently due to healing issues; Dan Runnels had a heart attack resulting in a stint but is doing fine; and Gayle Fortney is having a pace maker implanted today. Chris Shepherd provided the blessing for the meal and everyone enjoyed the buffet meal.
Following the meal, President Chris Shepherd again called the meeting to order. State Conservationist Gary O’Neill was in attendance and provided an update on activities within NRCS. He has been the State Conservationist since 2013 and hopes to remain in Oklahoma (which is his home) until retirement. Oklahoma recently underwent a restructure because of a staff ceiling of 241 employees. Currently there are only 221 employees. Funding is available for more employees but limited due to the ceiling. Each county has an NRCS presence. The 77 DC’s were reduced to 21 DC’s with the other DC’s being converted to Resource Conservationists. Those 21 DC’s supervise 2 to 6 counties. 19 of the DC’s came from within Oklahoma with only 2 from out of state but with previous Oklahoma ties. Six zones went to 3 with 7 DC’s in each. Each zone has an Assistant for Field Office Operations. Oklahoma is the only State approved for this reorganization currently. Other states are looking to reorganize similar to Oklahoma. Administrative staffs from NRCS and FSA have been combined. Matt Lohr is the new Chief. Kevin Norton, State Conservationist in Louisiana and formerly Assistant State Conservationist for Programs in Oklahoma, is on detail to Washington DC as the Acting Associate Chief since 12/3/18. That detail is expected to be made permanent. The New Farm Bill contains funding for watershed construction as well as rehabilitation. Oklahoma has 2,107 existing structures with one new one to be constructed. There are 84 conservation districts and 77 counties. Tribes have established three conservation districts. NRCS and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission are working to hire secretaries and technicians who will be full time state employees with benefits. NRCS will be providing funding to OCC to assist in paying the employees. Next week is the National Land Judging contest in Oklahoma.
First time attendees introduced themselves: Larry Jarrell retired as a Resource Engineer from the Clinton Technical Office in January 2019 with 42 years’ service; Steve Clark retired as a Resource Specialist from the Claremore Technical Office at the end of 2015 with 35 years’ service; and Michael Sheik retired as the District Conservationist at Enid in August 2018 with 34 years’ service. Everyone in attendance introduced themselves and their spouse or guest in attendance.
Randy Freeland passed around forms for retirees to provide their retirement activities (i.e. volunteer work, travel, part-time work, activities, etc.) This information is used for the Oklahoma Retired SCS/NRCS Employees Association newsletter along with the minutes of the meeting. Many retirees have expressed their appreciation for the information presented on the website www.joepad.com . When they are not able to attend the meetings, the website provides pictures, list of attendees, etc. Joe Freeland, retired Construction Engineer, has been very gracious to keep the website updated after each meeting. Thank you Joe!
Secretary/Treasurer Sandra Hough read the minutes of the October 26, 2018, meeting. They were approved as read. The treasurers’ report showed a balance at the last meeting of $539.36 with $140.00 dues deposited for a beginning balance of $679.36. Expenses for this meeting were $216.60 leaving an ending balance of $462.76. There were 306 notices mailed, 7 returned with 3 updated. Correct addresses are needed for: Gerald Younger, Tulsa, OK; B. Lorene Null, Chickasha, OK; Joseph H. Bryant, Chesterfield, MO; and Paul Parham, Caney, OK. Two recipients of meeting notices requested removal of their names from our list.
Members were reminded that we collect $10 per year from each member for expenses for the Association. They can be paid in April or October each year. There was a brief discussion on ways to cut expenses for the meetings. Expenses are postage and the cost of printing the meeting notices. It was suggested that we look at the existing mailing list and make some adjustments. Several in attendance suggested eliminating notices to those for whom we have an email address unless they request a mailed notice. Randy Freeland and Sandra Hough will work on the list before the next meeting. Retirees should email Randy Freeland email@example.com to request an emailed meeting notice in lieu of a mailed meeting notice.
Sandra Hough read a list of recent retirees: Joe Freeland, Construction Engineer, Pauls Valley WO, 9/1/18, 38 yrs service, retired from the National Design, Construction & Soil Mechanics Center in Fort Worth, TX; Mark Maples, DC, Okemah, 1/3/19, 37+ yrs service; Dwight Guy, Shawnee, 40 yrs service; Larry Jarrell, Engineer, Clinton TSO, 1/3/19, 42 yrs service; Jacob Worley, Muskogee, 1/1/19; Larry Coppick, Engineer, Perry TSO; and Gary Utley, Hydrologist, Stillwater SO, 3/3/19, 38+ yrs service.
Sandra also read a list of retiree deaths since October 2018. They were: Ed Gelnar, 82, retired Soil Conservation Technician, Mangum, 11/22/18, retired 30+ yrs ago; Larry Farris, 66, Okemah, 11/18/18, 20 yrs service; Dave Petefish, 67, retired Texas State Geologist, 12/8/18, 32 yrs service, worked in Okmulgee WSO in 1984; Russel Wilson, 86, retired Soil Conservation Technician, Coalgate, 12/19/18, 30 yrs service; Leroy Hudson, 86 retired Harmon Co. Conservation District Director, Hollis, 1/6/19, served on district board for 30 yrs, also a former OACD President; Loren Zweiacker, 71, retired DC, Pawnee, 1/21/19, 37 yrs service, retired 12/31/09; Al Conradi, 85, Baxter, TN, 4/16/19, served as Soil Scientist and was the DC in Oklahoma City before transferring to Tennessee as AC. The group paused for a moment of silence in their memory.
Larry Caldwell serves on the board of the Oklahoma Conservation Historical Society (OCHS) and provided those in attendance with a copy of their annual report as of February 2019. The purpose of this group is to collect, preserve, and share Oklahoma’s rich conservation history with Oklahomans. The Oklahoma State University Oral History Staff completed 24 interviews with Oklahoma conservationists both audio and video recordings in 2018. He also made available 2019 Membership forms for those interested in becoming members or renewing their membership. The SCS/NRCS Retiree group became members in October 2018. 2019 Memberships with the Oklahoma Conservation Historical Society are being accepted in the following categories: General ($25), Family ($40), Organization ($50), Founders ($100), Sustaining ($100) a new category from 2018. Checks should be made payable to: OACD with memo line: OCHS dues Mail dues to: Kim Farber, P. O. Box 9 Drummond, OK 73735
Duane Crider reported that his daughter and 13 year old grandson will be running the half marathon and 17 year old grandson the full marathon Sunday in the Oklahoma National Memorial Run to Remember in downtown Oklahoma City. Duane is a spectator this year having participated in previous runs.
Sandra Hough had visited by phone with J. R. Flores, former AC in Oklahoma who is currently the State Conservationist in Missouri. He had tried to arrange his schedule to be at this meeting today but it didn’t work out. He said he is the longest serving State Conservationist in the nation with 15 years.
Harry Fritzler has graciously agreed to assume the duties of President and Steve Chessmore has graciously agreed to assume the duties of Vice President effective with the October 2019 meeting for a period of two years. Harry and Steve will switch positions after a year. Sandra Hough has agreed to continue to serve as Secretary/Treasurer. Thank you to Chris Shepherd and Duane Crider for serving as President/Vice-President for the past two years and to Sandra Hough for continuing to serve as Secretary/Treasurer since 2008.
The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, October 25, 2019, at the Golden Corral on MacArthur Boulevard in Oklahoma City. The Golden Corral opens at 10:00 AM so there is extra time for visiting before the meeting starts at 11:30 AM.
There was no other business to bring before the group and the meeting was adjourned.
The newsletter following this meeting can be found here: Newsletter April 2019
The minutes from the meeting can be found here: Minutes April 2019
A list of attendees at the meeting can be found here: Attendees April 2019