Conservation's Sixth Director Retires
Jerry Conley's administration of the Conservation Department only lasted five and a half years, but in that relatively short time he reorganized the agency, putting in place a foundation that will allow the agency to better respond to public needs and to better protect Missouri's forests, fish and wildlife for a long time to come.
"It was a complete pleasure to come here before I retired," Conley said. "Although I grew up in Missouri, I never thought I'd have the opportunity to work for the Conservation Department at this level. No director since the very first one in 1938 came from outside the Department."
Jerry told the Missouri Conservation Commission when it hired him that he was ready to work hard. He said that he would drive the Department forward and that he didn't want the Conservation Department to be second best.
"I told them that if they felt like they needed to take a look at making changes," he said, "then I was their man."
Change became the hallmark of the Conservation Department under the Conley administration. He established common regional boundaries and formed regional and district coordination teams that included representatives of various divisions within the Department. Parking became easier around the Jefferson City central office complex as employees were relocated from the Department's headquarters to field positions, where they could better serve the public.
Jerry also created a new division, Private Land Services, whose employees work one on one with landowners to enhance wildlife habitat and help protect against erosion and stream pollution. The division's employees have directly helped 6,300 landowners and improved conservation practices on more than 300,000 privately owned acres.
Throughout his administration, Jerry emphasized teamwork, partnerships and communication. "We started out having divisional meetings, getting people to work as a team," he said. "We then let that approach filter down to the point that, now, our employees are more concerned about what the Department is doing than what their division is doing."
Jerry never dodged the public eye. Through his Conservationist editorials and his weekly radio call-in show, he sought out public opinion. He not only told people, "I want to talk to you," he gave out his phone number and his e-mail address.
Readers of the Conservationist may recall that all photos accompanying his editorials included his yellow Labrador retriever, Boise Valley Ripple. More casually known as "Rip."
"Having the dog in the picture was