Parks & RestorationApr 05, 2023
45. This young entrepreneur is building AI tech that will change the future of parks and conservation
If you think technology won't influence the parks and conservation world, this episode will make you think otherwise. And if you think today's young people aren't planning to change to world, you haven't talked to this guy...
Samuel Malkasian, a young tech entrepreneur in Des Moines, is developing AI systems that can make climbing walls safer and that can "see" in places without cameras. And he's doing it all with no venture capital. He's currently working for free because he believes in the ability of technology to make the world a better place.
Before I met Sam, I had never even considered the potential impact that emerging technologies could have on our industry. Now that I've talked with him, I can't stop thinking about the possibilities.
And that's what I like about this conversation. While we do geek out a little about what technology exists today, we talk a lot about what might be coming and how much that's going to help us in the future.
Even if you're not a tech junky, I think you'll enjoy this episode.
44. People come first - A leadership-focused mini-episode
This is the first of five (or more) mini-episodes I will post focused on leadership and organizational culture. Through these episodes, I will discuss my framework, the 5-P's of a Thriving Culture, that I present through my leadership speaking and consulting work.
This one is all about People, and how for workplaces to thrive, people must be at the center.
If you're interested in learning more or digging deeper into these topics, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me through the comment form at www.outdoorexecutivedad.com.
A big thanks to Bolton & Menk for sponsoring these leadership episodes. To learn more about those guys and how they're focused on impacting parks and conservation in Iowa, check out episode 40 and my interview with Emily Naylor.
43. Joy is My Job - an interview with author and speaker, Lisa Even
With the holiday season upon us, it's a perfect time to assess whether we are really getting JOY out of our lives. It's real easy to bogged down in the daily grind, the hustle of life, and the chasing of the things that society tells us to chase. But Lisa Even brings a perspective that I like, and it's this: we should pursue JOY like it's our job.
What if we put the same priority on enjoying life as we do all the things we prioritize at work? In her new book, Joy is My Job, and through her speaking, Lisa shows us how to not just prioritize joy, but to work in bits of joy into our already busy lives.
Thanks for what you do, and I hope this episode helps you find a bit more JOY this holiday season, or whenever it is you end up listening.
42. Modern day CCC - How to supercharge your staff capacity and create opportunities for young people with a heart for service
For the last four weeks, I've had the benefit of having a 7-person Americorps NCCC team serving with my team at Des Moines County Conservation. Today, after the last-day lunch I treated them to, I sat down with a couple of the team members to discuss their experience with the program, best practices for managing a team, and the opportunities that national service programs such as Americorps offers young people today.
The Americorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) is a 10-11 month service program for young people ages 18-26. Participants gain experience while supporting climate change mitigation, building affordable housing, disaster response, and more - including improving local park amenities and trail systems like they've done while serving with my department. They travel the country, all expenses paid, and earn money for college while serving on a team full-time.
For us as sponsoring organizations, the only real obligation is having enough work for a team to keep busy 40+ hours per week for up to 8+ weeks and providing somewhere for them to live while serving the community.
To learn more about the various Americorps programs discussed in this episode, go to www.Americorps.gov.
41. How do you build a $4.5M nature center in a county of less than 15,000? Scott Nelson tells us how.
In Harrison County, Iowa, less than an hour northeast of Omaha is the brand new Willow Lake Nature Center, now the headquarters of Harrison County Conservation and the showpiece for Willow Lake Recreation Area. In this episode, I talk with Conservation Director Scott Nelson about how such a big project came to be (it was 10 years in the making), and how he cultivated the relationships necessary to tackle such an undertaking in a small county.
And while we do get into the practical and tactical stuff, what I was really interested in was the human dimension. The working with policy makers and budget writers, the impact on the staff, and the decisions along the way that impacted those relationships. Because as leaders, cultivating relationships is paramount to moving our dreams forward. And Scott is a great one to learn from in that dimension.
If you enjoy Parks and Restoration, please share it with your colleagues. We're all in this together, and the better we all develop as leaders, the better our whole industry will be going forward.
Thanks for all you do out there!
Learn more about Willow Lake Nature Center & Harrison County Conservation:
40. Bolton & Menk created a position specifically to support County Conservation projects and people. Here's what that means for us [Sponsor Spotlight]
Emily Naylor has been deeply involved with County Conservation for the better part of a decade. Now that she's with Bolton & Menk, her job is specifically to help us as parks and conservation leaders serve our communities and achieve the dreams we have for our parks and landscapes.
In this sponsored episode, I talk with Emily about what Bolton & Menk can do for us in the world of parks and conservation, specifically those of us in Iowa's County Conservation System (that's literally written into her job title, after all). We talk about what her dreams are for the future of parks and conservation and how she hopes to help us turn our respective dreams into reality within our own communities.
39. How to write a killer grant application
Many of us in the parks and conservation world either have written, or will write grants at some point. I've been on both sides of the grant process - I've written many grants (some successfully, even!) and have served on grant scoring committees. Having just concluded a scoring process and with several grant deadlines coming up in the not-too-distant future, I took some time in this episode to share my tips for writing successful grants.
Here's the quick summary:
1. Have a good project
2. Do your homework
4. Write a killer application
5. Utilize technology
Listen to this episode for more details.
If you find this information helpful, share it with someone in our industry that would benefit from it too. This show isn't made for the masses. It's made specifically for those of us in the parks and conservation world(s). So the best way for you to help me get into the ears of fellow outdoors professionals is to tell your colleagues about the show.
Thanks for what you do out there on the lands and in our parks!
38. Park Leadership - Past, Present, & Future with Jody Maberry, Host of the Park Leaders Show
Jody Maberry started the first podcast focused on developing park leaders way back in 2014. Now, nine years and almost 300 episodes of The Park Leaders Show later, he chats with me about how it all began and what he's learned from talking with so many great leaders from around the country. We discuss some of his favorite episodes and guests and how we as park and conservation leaders can adapt to a changing industry.
Be sure to check out the Park Leaders Show wherever you get your podcasts.
37. How I’m handling a big change at my department
36. Turkeys for Tomorrow with Jason Lupardus
This brand new nonprofit wild turkey conservation organization is investing heavily in research, collaboration, and ways of getting turkey science out to the hunting public.
Turkeys for Tomorrow (TFT) officially began in February of 2021 with the goal of reversing declining wild turkey populations using research as the foundation of decision making. The organization is currently working with several universities on multiple research projects.
TFT also sponsors the Wild Turkey Science podcast which takes research out of the realm of academia and put it squarely in the hands of those of us out on the landscape so we can use it to make informed management decisions.
In this episode, I talk with Jason Lupardus, Director of Business Operations and Partnerships at TFT about how the organization came about, what it's currently doing, where it's headed in the future, and how we as conservation professionals can be part of restoring wild turkey populations.
If you like this episode and want to hear more turkey talk, check out my interview with Dan Kaminski from Iowa DNR who is leading the turkey research in Iowa, episode 27.
And finally, if you find value in this or any episode of this show, please share it with your colleagues in the field. Unlike a lot of shows, this one is very specific to our industry so I see no use promoting it to the disinterested masses. But if we can share it with others in the parks and conservation world, we can all improve collectively. And that can have a big impact on our lands, our communities, and future generations.
Thanks for listening, and thanks for all you do for parks and conservation!
35. Michelle Wilson is overhauling REAP Assemblies. We can help.
Michelle Wilson wants to change the way REAP Assemblies are held, but she needs our help doing it.
Iowa's Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program has been around for over three decades and for as long as most of us can remember, the biannual REAP Assemblies have been done the same way. That's going to change this year. Hear what's changing, what's staying the same, and what the future holds for Iowa's most impactful park and conservation program to date.
Learn more about the REAP program at https://www.iowadnr.gov/conservation/reap.
34. Parks and outdoors as sources of population & economic growth with Chelsea Lerud, Iowa Travel Industry Partners (iTIP)
We've all seen the impact our parks and public lands have on the people in our communities. But how many people do those parks bring to the community from somewhere else? How many new residents chose to move to your community because those places existed?
We also know how much our parks make in direct revenue. But what's the real economic impact to our community? To the state?
In this episode, I talk with Chelsea Lerud, Executive Director of Iowa Travel Industry Partners, about the economics of parks and outdoor recreation, the effort to highlight those spaces as a means to grow Iowa's population, and more.
As parks and conservation professionals, we need to recognize that our work goes far beyond the boundaries of the lands and facilities we manage. What we do has serious economic impacts far beyond just the revenue we generate from our facilities. My hope is that this episode makes that clearer.
You can find links to some of the research referenced in this episode on my website: www.OutdoorExecutiveDad.com.
As always, thanks for everything you do out there!
33. Shaping the future of our communities with Confluence [Sponsor Spotlight]
How do you take big ideas and turn them into community-impacting reality? These guys know.
Confluence is the consulting firm that worked with the City of Burlington on a master planning process and then the ultra-inclusive destination playground project at the city's Dankwardt Park which was the topic of Episode 32. Confluence is a professional creative firm dedicated to bringing people, ideas, and their creative process to shape the future of our communities. Having seen first-hand some of the work they've done, especially through public input processes on that playground project, I wanted to get them on the show.
In this sponsored episode I talk with Patrick Alvord and Ben Sandell about the work that Confluence has done, the impacts it has made through that work, and also the details of the planning and public input processes they used to bring a $1.5 million fully inclusive playground to life.
"Make no small plans."
What big dream do you have for your park or community? Don't let it live forever only as a dream. Get it out into the world but then be patient.
"Nothing good ever happens fast."
Just like growing trees or restoring prairies, great things take time. Sometimes lots of it. The folks at Confluence recognize that and they're playing the long game, which is a rare trait in our gotta-have-it-now society.
So when you're ready to start turning dreams into reality, reach out to the team at Confluence. They specialize in turning dreams into community features.
"Think ahead. Think Confluence."
For more information, visit www.thinkconfluence.com.
This show is now Parks and Restoration
The Outdoor Executive Dad podcast is now called Parks and Restoration.
The content is largely going to stay the same, but I wanted to rebrand the show to make it more reflective of the content, and less about me as the host. I will also still personally maintain the Outdoor Executive Dad moniker and the OutdoorExecutiveDad.com website where you'll continue to find show notes and links from the various episodes. I just felt the show title needed to better reflect what I publish. Hopefully that makes it easier for other parks and conservation professionals to find it.
I'm also going to start publishing some sponsored content in the form of standalone episodes focusing on the companies that we as parks and conservation professionals work with and who help us impact the world. These episodes will highlight the companies' people and purpose and share valuable tips on how we can be more effective in our work. I have no interest in trying to sell anyone anything, but if I can match a need with a solution and help you learn along the way, that's a win for everyone.
I think you'll like what's to come.
As always, thanks for listening and thank you for all you do in the parks and out on the landscape!
32. What is "inclusive" play, really? A deep dive into Burlington's $1.5M playground project
The term "inclusive" gets thrown around a lot in the outdoor recreation industry but what does "inclusive" play really mean?
In the city of Burlington, Iowa, park leaders are showing us exactly what it means as they construct a $1.5 million destination playground that will be the most inclusive playground in the region. This playground goes well beyond just "accessible." It will give kids of varying abilities the opportunity to play side-by-side with each other.
In this episode, I talk on-site with Ryan Gourley and Eric Tysland about how this project came to be, why they chose to tackle such an expensive project, and how they've managed to make it a reality. We talk about public input, marketing, fundraising, and most importantly, WHY such a project is important.
For links to information discussed in this episode, go to OutdoorExecutiveDad.com.
Thanks for listening!
31. Insights from 40+ years of Conservation Education with Dr. Jim Pease
Dr. Jim Pease is an Associate Professor Emeritus in the Natural Resources, Ecology, and Management (NREM) department at Iowa State University. He's been teaching people about the natural world for over 40 years in both formal and informal settings and his list of credentials is impressive, to say the least. He is certainly leaving a legacy here in Iowa. Today he continues to paddle Iowa rivers (he's logged over 2200 miles of them so far!), consulting with the DNR and water trails programs; he hosts a monthly wildlife program, called "Talk of Iowa" on Iowa Public Radio; he's an active speaker and writer and serves in several leadership positions, including as a board member for Story County Conservation.
Dr. Pease has impacted countless people in his career and in this conversation, he shares his thoughts on preventing burnout among staff, wilderness programs, river restoration and river trails projects, what we as current and future parks and conservation leaders should be thinking about as we move forward in our careers, and lots more.
If you'd like to connect with Dr. Pease, contact him via email at email@example.com.
30. Seasonal staff are our future
29. Chris Jones and Iowa's Water Quality Crisis
"I'm not against farming. I'm against pollution." ~Chris Jones
Chris Jones is a research engineer at the University of Iowa where he manages the state's water quality monitoring system. But he is probably best known for his blog, through which he describes the state's water quality crisis and its sources: mainly the industrial agricultural system.
Over the years, Chris Jones has become one of the most outspoken champions for clean water in the state. He unabashedly calls out the ag industry, politicians, and lobbyists as being culpable in the pollution of our state's water bodies.
And while he's sometimes considered a controversial or polarizing figure, I can't help but respect the David role he has assumed against the Goliath of Big Ag in our state. Someone this impassioned about improving our lands and waters is someone I just had to talk to.
I've read most of his blog and listened to his podcast (titled "We All Want Clean Water") so I tried not to cover topics or recommendations that are easy enough to look up. Mostly, I wanted to know about him as a person and the process by which he became the "David" that he is today. That, and I wanted to dig in to some topics I just wanted to know more about like ethanol, pipelines, and field tile.
I think this conversation took place at an inflection point for Chris. He just announced that he's discontinuing the blog on the university site (he's posting on his personal Blogspot site for now) and he has a book coming out in a couple weeks (titled The Swine Republic, find it here). I got the vibe there's more to the Chris Jones story than what we covered, but I guess we'll have to wait to see what's next.
Until then, enjoy this conversation and thank you for all you do to improve our lands and waters.
28. Richard Erke - Retired Decatur County Director
Let's call this another installment of the County Conservation Legacy Society. Richard Erke retired last year after 39 years in Decatur County. I love having conversations with long-serving conservation leaders because the perspective looking back on a 4-decade career is much different than what it is for us in the still deep in the trenches. This particular conversation reinforced for me, yet again, the power of unrelenting and long-standing pursuit of something bigger. It's easy to get lost in the short-term struggles of budgets, annual maintenance, and small projects. But it's important to never forget that all of those fights, the small setbacks and little wins, collectively add up to something big. And after a few decades, we all will eventually get to look back on the impact we had on our landscapes, on our communities, and on the people we impacted along the way.
Every day, we're creating a legacy. And for me, it's fun to talk to those that already have. This is one of those conversations.
27. Turkey Research in Iowa with Dan Kaminski from DNR
Wild turkey populations have declined in many places across their range and many parts of Iowa are no exception. Research is going on across the country studying various aspects of turkey population dynamics. In this episode, Dan Kaminski, Wildlife Research Biologist with the Iowa DNR walks us through the research happening in Iowa, who's involved, and what questions researchers are trying to answer along the way.
This episode is for anyone who loves turkeys and/or turkey hunting and wants to improve our landscape for turkeys into the future.
If you enjoy this episode, or if you found the information useful, please share it with others that might benefit from hearing about the status of turkey research here in Iowa.
And if you take to the field this season, good luck!
26. A Philosopher's Guide to Land Stewardship with Chad Graeve, Natural Resource Specialist in Pottawattamie County
Why do we cut cedars out of prairies? Why do we thin trees in forests and oak savannas? Why do we burn?
For many of us, the answers to those questions are fairly straightforward. But some people think about land management on a deeper level. They see thinning operations as managing the flow of energy in a system. Or they seek to understand the microclimate impacts from prescribed fire.
Some people focus on the "why" before the "what" and the "how" when it comes to working in conservation. My guest for this episode, Chad Graeve, is definitely one of those people. As the Natural Resource Specialist at Pottawattamie County Conservation, Chad has spent nearly 30 years honing his "why" and in this conversation, we dive deep into the evolution of his philosophies regarding land stewardship, hiring practices, team building, balancing outdoor recreation with natural area management, and much more.
I left this conversation with a new way of looking at the lands I manage and it's reignited my passion for understanding the "why" behind our decisions as an organization. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.
25. Communications, Coordination, and Program Updates with Jamie Cook, Iowa DNR Hunter Education Coordinator
What are effective ways to recruit new people to hunting when the "It's our heritage" statement doesn't resonate? How can we diversify our education programs to reach broader demographics? How can the DNR more effectively communicate with county conservation professionals across the state as we collectively work to bring outdoor recreation to a new generation?
I tackle these questions and much more in this conversation with Jamie Cook, Iowa DNR Hunter Education Coordinator.
24. The Land Ethic is Rooted in Iowa with Steve Brower from the Leopold Landscape Alliance
It's Leopold Week where we celebrate the life and work of Aldo Leopold, the "Father of Wildlife Ecology" and no doubt a big influence on many of us in the conservation field. But how many of us stop to appreciate the fact that Leopold is from here in Iowa, born and raised in Burlington (my hometown, incidentally). So much of what he wrote and what has been written about his focuses on his professional life and his travels and accomplishments outside of Iowa. But the "Land Ethic" that he's so well known for is rooted in his upbringing. And those roots are right here in Iowa.
In this episode, I chat with Steve Brower, president of the Leopold Landscape Alliance (LLA) which is working to not only secure the birthplace homes of Leopold and his grandparents, but to preserve the legacy that Leopold and his family have in Iowa, and in Burlington specifically. Steve is an inexhaustible advocate for the cause and is a Leopold scholar in his own right. His insights into Leopold's childhood and how those experiences helped form his later philosophies could be an entire series of podcast episodes alone. For this one, however, we take a broad view and discuss the broader implications for connecting people with nature in the modern era, something we in the county conservation world do every day.
Fair warning, you'll be digging out your copy of Sand County Almanac after listening to this episode. I already have mine. It is Leopold Week, after all.
To learn more about the Leopold Landscape Alliance or to connect with Steve for a program or tour of the houses, visit www.leopoldalliance.org.
23. The Future of Prescribed Fire and Loess Hills Cooperative Burn Week with Kody Wohlers
Kody Wohlers has built a career around fire. Now he is ensuring that future generations of land managers have the skills and experience to properly apply this critical management tool to landscapes in their own communities. The Loess Hills Alliance's Cooperative Burn week has become the gold standard for agencies working together to not only impact a globally significant landscape, but to teach and mentor up-and-coming conservationists along the way. In this episode Kody tells us how it all came to be and how it is now so much more than a bunch of agency people working together to burn the hills.
Find out more about the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.
Legislative Update with Adam Shirley - Feb. 22, 2023
There's a lot going on in the statehouse lately, notably a bill in the Senate that would fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund (aka IWiLL) while making some significant changes to various other tax codes. In this episode, I chat with ICCS CEO Adam Shirley about some of the bill's details, what some of the response has been to it, and what we can do as parks and conservation professionals to keep the Trust funding momentum going.
As with all legislative updates, this information is time-sensitive and may or not still be applicable if you listen much past the publication date (Feb. 22, 2023 in this case). I will do my best to post more updates as things move along legislatively so be sure to subscribe to the show and check in regularly.
Thanks for all you do for Iowa's parks and natural resources and let's get this Trust funded this year!
22. School of the Wild with Jay Gorsh and Kenny Slocum
What if we gave every student in an entire 4th or 5th grade class a fully immersive, week long, multidisciplinary outdoor learning experience? That’s exactly what School of the Wild is doing in school districts across Iowa.
In this episode I talk with Jay Gorsh, the program’s director, and Kenny Slocum, a Naturalist from Clayton County, about the program and how we can bring it to our communities. To learn more or to find Jay’s contact info, just Google “Iowa school of the wild” or go to www.outdoorexecutivedad.com.
Legislative Update: January 30, 2023
This is the first of what will likely be many legislative updates shared through this show. This is a snapshot of the status of the Iowa Legislature as it applies to the world of county conservation as of this day in time (January 30, 2023). There are a lot of moving parts in the legislature so if you listen to this much past the original posting date, there's a good chance some of this will be outdated already. So it goes...
I do plan to post these updates with some regularity, especially as exciting things start happening in Des Moines involving parks and conservation. This inaugural update includes some encouragement to be involved in the process. If you don't already know your legislators personally, I encourage you to make that contact and cultivate that relationship. We, as county conservationists, are the first line of advocacy and education when it comes to policy involving conservation and outdoor recreation. Let's not take that responsibility lightly.
Want to learn more about a bill or find your legislator? Start here: https://www.legis.iowa.gov.
Credit to Craig Patterson and Amy Campbell for the legislative newsletter I used as the basis for this update. Also thanks to IEC for providing a summary of the flood infrastructure bill.
And finally, if you have questions, thoughts, concerns or comments regarding this episode, please let me know via email or in a comment on the website at www.OutdoorExecutiveDad.com. Was this helpful? I especially want to know if you want more of these updates in the future.
Thanks for what you do and keep making a difference out there!
Winterfest Day 2
Live from Winterfest 2023 - Day 1
21. Adam Shirley - New CEO of Iowa's County Conservation System
It's the beginning of a new era for Iowa's County Conservation System. Adam Shirley just officially took the reins as CEO, carrying forward the work and legacy left by 47-year County Conservation veteran Tom Hazelton. But no doubt Adam will put his on spin on things and bring his own ideas and initiatives in the coming years, as all leaders do. Curious to hear what he has in mind for the future of the nation's best county conservation system, I had what I suspect will be the first of several chats with Adam, who happens to be a friend and long time colleague of mine.
I hope you enjoy this discussion as much as I did and if you have any feedback, questions, or suggestions for future topics to cover here on OED, hit me up via email at OutdoorExecutiveDad@gmail.com or leave me a message via the website at www.OutdoorExecutiveDad.com.
OED needs your your help
For the first post of 2023, I’m asking for your help.
Over the break I determined that the scope of this podcast is, and will most likely continue to be, focused on county conservation. That’s the world I know and love and therefore is the world for which I want to create content. So I need feedback from you, the county conservation employee, regarding what topics to cover and who to talk to on this show.
And also, what should I call it? I don’t know that the "Outdoor Executive Dad" moniker is that helpful for making the show discoverable. But maybe that doesn’t matter? I don’t know….
So here’s your chance to help craft the content for THE podcast for county conservation professionals. Email me at OutdoorExecutiveDad@gmail.com or go to the website (www.outdoorexecutivedad.com) and leave a comment with any suggestions you have.
Thanks for all you do and I look forward to seeing where this journey takes us.
20. Steven Brody Interviews Chris on All Things Greater Burlington
In this episode, the tables are turned when the host becomes the guest. I recently joined Steven Brody, Director of the Chamber of Commerce here in my hometown of Burlington, IA for an episode of their podcast, All Things Greater Burlington. We talked about issues facing parks and conservation, the various programs and facilities my department manages, and plans for the future. And I shared some of my parks and conservation philosophy along the way.
19. Jeremy Hess on the intersection of parks and economic development
Some business deals get done in bars. Others, as today's guest, Jeremy Hess, has discovered, get done in boats. On the river. While catching catfish.
As the Director of Economic Development for the Greater Burlington Partnership, Jeremy knows a thing or two about bringing businesses to town. He also knows how important parks and recreation amenities are to business leaders and today's workforce. This conversation explores the intersection of parks and economic development. Along the way, we discuss the importance of leadership and how we as park and conservation leaders are key players in the economic development of our communities.
Admittedly, much of our conversation focuses on the region we're from here in Southeast Iowa but the takeaway points, I think, are fairly universal no matter what community you happen to be from.
If you'd like to hear another interview with Jeremy Hess, check out his interview on the All Things Greater Burlington podcast.
18. Brian Moore, Retired Chickasaw County Director
How do you build a strong, cohesive team? Drink beer and catch fish together!
Okay, maybe that's not exactly the way today's leaders should operate, but early in Brian Moore's career nearly 40 years ago, it worked pretty well. Brian recently retired after more than 32 years leading the conservation department in Chickasaw County. In this episode, we talk about why it's important to get people out of their normal routines sometimes, how he went about strategic planning, and how 30+ years went by in a place he never originally planned to stay.
Please enjoy and if you do, be sure to subscribe, leave a review, or more importantly, share it with your colleagues in the field.
Thanks for listening!
17. KC Fleming on parks' role in workforce recruitment
I wanted to know how important parks and outdoor recreation amenities are from a workforce recruitment perspective so I reached out to the recruiter for my county's largest employer - the local health system.
KC Fleming is tasked with finding and recruiting physicians for Great River Health, convincing professionals at the top of their fields to relocate to southeast Iowa. And while our conversation does focus mostly on this part of the state, the take-home message is the same: Parks and outdoor recreation assets are critical infrastructure when it comes to recruiting a quality workforce.
16. Dennis Lewiston - Retired Jefferson County Director
43 years is a long time to do anything, and Dennis Lewiston spent that long working in county conservation, spending 37 of those years in Jefferson County alone.
The wealth of knowledge that these long-serving leaders bring really is astounding and that's why I do this podcast. I've said repeatedly that we're playing the long game in our professions. Yet for those of us in the trenches, those of us with half a career ahead of us, it's easy to get lost in the day-to-day grind. But as guests like Dennis Lewiston show us, the years go by fast. You wake up one day and realize four decades have passed. That, I think, is something we need to keep in mind to help us stay motivated and do the work that future generations need us to do.
This interview was recorded back in mid-2020, well before my plans to start this podcast. Then, I just wanted to capture the institutional knowledge leaving the CCB system and I recorded those early interviews by whatever means I could cobble together. Thus the less-than-studio-quality sound. Nevertheless, Dennis brings a wealth of knowledge and insight to this interview. I hope you get as much from it as I have.
15. Ray Delmege on Starting CCPOA and Seeing a Park Vision Come to Life
Shortly after Ray Delmege started his career at Polk County Conservation, he was assigned to Jester Park which was described to him as "a glorified cow pasture where motorcycle gangs and college kids came to drink beer and party."
If you've been to Jester Park lately, you know it's a long way from a "glorified cow pasture" today. In fact it's a poster child for what county parks can become when tenacious park and conservation leaders relentlessly pursue a vision for a better future.
I originally set out to find out more about Ray's experience working with Tom Hazelton (episode 12) and starting the County Conservation Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), which I did. But as conversations tend to do, we sidetracked into the history of Jester Park and that's where the real takeaway lessons came from, at least for me.
It's easy to get lost in the day-to-day struggle of our professions. While it's fun to dream about what our parks and areas could maybe become, the reality of today's budget situations or political climates can wear us down and make us question whether our dreams will ever become reality. But in this conversation, I literally sat across the table from a past park professional that was there when one of the state's now most well-known county parks was little more than a "glorified cow pasture" where people went to party.
We're playing the long game, friends. It takes us as leaders to bring the tenacity, the relentless pursuit of a better tomorrow, to make things like Jester Park happen. Our efforts will far outlast any political administration, any budget cycle, any hurdle that gets put in our way if we choose to be the leaders that future generations need us to be.
So please enjoy this episode and I hope it inspires you as much as it has inspired me. And if it does, please share that inspiration with your colleagues by pointing them to this podcast.
Thanks for listening!
14. Kami Rankin & Shae Rossetti on Marketing and Community Engagement
If you build it, but nobody knows about it, will anybody come? What's the "personality" of your organization? How do you build so much trust among your community that 81% of it votes to give you $65 million to further your parks and conservation efforts?
That's what I discuss with Kami Rankin and Shae Rossetti from Polk County Conservation in this episode. They were responsible for the department's community outreach efforts for years, recently culminating in the successful $65 million bond issue.
You'll notice in this conversation that "community outreach" is more than just marketing. It's relationship building and it's an ongoing, multifaceted effort.
For those of us that don't spend much time in the marketing world, there are some good takeaways here that might help get more people in our parks and help them better understand who we are as organizations, which could help in many ways...65 million of them in Polk County Conservation's case.
Please enjoy this episode and if you have a colleague in the field that might benefit from hearing it too, share it with them. Also, don't forget to subscribe and leave a review.
13. Bob Etzel - Retired Tama County (Iowa) Conservation Director
When one county department sues another over a hog confinement issue, that's a story worth telling. But then again, over a 40-year career, you end up with plenty of stories to tell. Bob Etzel retired from Tama County Conservation after a four-decade stint as the department's director. In this episode, recorded back in mid-2020, he shares some of his insight from a long career in county conservation. We discuss working with boards, favorite books, hiring good employees, the likelihood that Tom Hazelton (soon-to-be-retired CEO of Iowa's County Conservation System) will fundraise for county conservation from a future senior citizens home, and more.
Some other names are mentioned in our discussion, some of which are episodes of their own: Tom Hazelton (Ep. 12), Daryl Parker (Ep. 6), and Tom Buckley (Ep. 4). Be sure to check those out if you haven't already.
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Thanks for tuning in!
12. Rick Schneider, Retired Woodbury County (Iowa) Director
In this podcast, I try to glean insight from those that have been in the industry for a while and this guest certainly fits that criteria. Rick Schneider served as director in Woodbury County for 43 years and shares some of his knowledge and experience with us in this episode.
And if you're enjoying the podcast, please share it with your colleagues in the industry. Tell them about it or forward the link to your favorite episode.
Thanks for listening!
11. County Bond Series Ep. 4 - Adams County's Bond
Adams County, Iowa is one of, if not THE, smallest counties in the state. Yet the county conservation department's main park, Lake Icaria, generates over $600,000 annually in direct revenue with a local economic impact of $3-4 million. In this county of less than 4,000 people, 73% of voters in 2016 approved a $1.3 million bond referendum to invest in their favorite county park and economic engine. The Board of Supervisors added to it with other financing mechanisms resulting in well over $3 million invested in the park.
In this episode, I talk with Adams County Conservation Director Travis Paul to see how it all came about and what impact these investments have made in their community.
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Thanks for listening!
10. Tom Hazelton, CEO of Iowa's County Conservation System
Tom Hazelton is to County Conservation what Aldo Leopold is to the concept of a Land Ethic, or what Ding Darling is to political cartoons about environmental topics. Tom has been involved in County Conservation his entire adult life, having served a full career as a Park Ranger in Linn County then "retiring" into the role of CEO of Iowa's County Conservation System in 2011. At the end of 2022, Tom will "retire" yet again, handing over the CEO reigns to a new leader. But he won't go far. We're sure he'll stay involved in County Conservation well past the half-century mark.
In this episode, Tom shares his history with the CCB system which, in many ways, is the history of the system as a whole. If you ever wanted to hear from someone that truly embodies leadership regarding parks and conservation, at least in the state of Iowa, this is the episode to tune into.
Enjoy, and thanks for listening!
9. County Bond Series Ep. 3 - Linn County's Bond
Linn County is the third of four counties in Iowa where voters overwhelmingly approved funding to support parks, trails, water quality, and other quality of life improvements via the county conservation department. In this episode, I interview Linn County Conservation Director Dennis Goemaat about Linn County's bond. Enjoy!
If you enjoy this podcast, please share it with other colleagues in the field. And don't forget to subscribe and leave a review in whatever podcast app you use. Doing so helps others find this content and the whole point is for this information to be widely available.
Thanks for listening!
8. County Bond Series Ep. 2 - Iowa's First County Bond
In 2008, voters in Johnson County passed the state's first county conservation bond referendum. In this discussion with Larry Gullett, Director at Johnson County Conservation, we go over how the bond came to be...and almost didn't.
This is the second in a series of episodes focused on county conservation bond referendums that have passed throughout the state over the years.
If you enjoy this podcast, please subscribe and leave a review. Doing so will help other park and conservation professionals find it. And if you know of a fellow outdoor leader that might enjoy this show, please share it with them. The more we can share information around, the more effective we'll collectively be at delivering great parks and healthy lands to our community today and for generations that follow.
7. County Bond Series Ep. 1 - Polk County's Two Bond Referendums
Polk County voters have passed two bonds to be used by the county conservation department for park and trail development, water quality, and other quality of life improvements. The first bond passed in 2012 with over 70% support. The second one passed in 2020 with 81% support. In this episode, I talk with County Conservation Director Rich Leopold about how these bonds came to be, what they learned through two bond referendum processes, and how Polk County Conservation has developed such immense public support.
This is the first in a series of episodes focused on county conservation bond referendums that have passed throughout the state over the years.
If you enjoy this podcast, please subscribe and leave a review. Doing so will help other park and conservation professionals find it. If you know of a fellow outdoor leader that might enjoy this show, please share it with them. The more we can share information around, the more effective we'll collectively be at delivering great parks and healthy lands to our community today and for generations that follow.
Remember Why You Do This
I had a moment of insight while walking a trail today and couldn’t help but share it. Too often we parks and conservation leaders get lost in the job and the day-to-day grind that we forget why we do what we do (at least I do, anyway). In a moment of literally seeing the forest for the trees, I sat along the trail and recorded this as a way to remind myself - and hopefully you, too - not to forget why we do this work. We’re leaving a legacy, writing our signatures on the landscape of our communities. Don’t forget that.
This short episode is a bit different from usual but hopefully it helps re-energize you a bit. It did for me.
Enjoy. And thank you for what you do for parks and conservation!
6. Doug Romig, Past Deputy Director at Polk County Conservation
After more than 30 years in public service, the last six of which were spent as Deputy Director with Polk County Conservation, Doug Romig decided to leave Iowa to be closer to family and to pursue a new career challenge. Before he left, we had the great conversation that you'll hear in this episode. We talked about the legacy we leave behind as park and conservation professionals, workplace culture, hiring good people, and much more. This was, for me, a very motivating and energizing conversation that led to follow up interviews with other Polk County staff which you'll hear in future episodes.
I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.
5. Daryl Parker, Retired Jackson County (Iowa) Conservation Director
Daryl Parker officially retired in 2020 after 28 years leading the conservation department in Jackson County, Iowa. In this conversation, we discuss board relations and how we as leaders can manage them, catastrophic floods, and the Hurstville Interpretive Center, among other topics.
4. Dan Biechler, Retired Linn County (Iowa) Conservation Director
This was the very first recording I did for what has now become this podcast. This is an interview with Dan Biechler, the then-Director at Linn County Conservation. This was recorded in early 2018, just about a week before Dan retired. He served 42 years with Linn County, 30 of them as Director. At the time I recorded this, I didn’t know what I would do with the recordings. You’ll hear us talk about a future book I might write, which may still happen. Who knows what the future holds. I just knew then, and still believe now, that I wanted to talk with these veteran conservation leaders before they left the industry. And that’s really what got this all started. But like I said, it was my first interview and I had no idea what I was doing. So I apologize in advance for the audio quality. Nevertheless, there’s some great insight in this episode. Dan is an interesting guy. In addition to being a devoted family man and conservation leader, he’s also an avid model train enthusiast and lover of music. This was a fun interview and I hope you enjoy this conversation with Dan Biechler, retired Linn County Conservation Director.
3. Tom Buckley, Retired Lee County (Iowa) Conservation Director
In this interview from January 2018, I talk with Tom Buckley who had recently retired as the Executive Director after 27 years with Lee County Conservation in Southeast Iowa, which happens to be my neighbor county to the south. This was one of the first retired Director interviews I had ever done. I have several others recorded which will serve as future episodes.
During our talk, we touch on Tom's cycling habit, how he got into the field, his thoughts on working with boards and the public, "favorite" mistakes, and more.