Conservation's Fifth Director Retires
plentiful back then," Presley said. "I was a sophomore in high school when I saw my first deer, and I didn't see my first turkey until I was a senior."
When he was in high school, Presley's best friend's father was a forest ranger with the U.S. Forest Service, and he took advantage of that connection to get a job fighting forest fires.
"Getting to know that forest ranger - a really nice man - I thought that maybe someday that might be a pretty nice job," Presley said.
But first came some oil field "roughnecking" in Texas, an attempt at Class D major league baseball and the military. The Korean War began, and Presley joined the Navy aviation branch, where he served four years.
Eligible for the GI Bill after discharge, Presley obtained a degree in forestry from the University of Missouri, Columbia. The new graduate had several employment offers, but he teamed up with the Conservation Department as Assistant District Forester in Ellington, so he could remain near his ailing grandmother.
Presley performed each job he did admirably and moved quickly through Conservation Department ranks. He was appointed state forest land supervisor in 1964, assistant state forester in 1969 and state forester in 1977. In 1986, he was appointed assistant director of the Conservation Department and became director in 1988.
"I never set any goal that I would one day be director of this department," Presley said, "but I always believed that when I went to a job and did it well that I could move up to the next higher level. My main goal was to keep bettering myself."
"And I really can't take credit for it all," he said, "I eventually ended up being director thanks to good luck and to support from a lot of people."
A People Person
During his career, Presley built a reputation as a people person. During a stint as district forester, he was instructed to load up his family and move to Shannon County to try to bolster public confidence in the Conservation Department.
"Neither my wife nor I was thrilled about moving. It put a lot of stress on the family, having to go into a totally new community and make new friends, but we made the move and it worked out."
Presley said he joined the local Rotary Club and Lions Club, and he joined and eventually managed