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TPW Commission

Commission Meeting, January 24, 2019

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

January 24, 2019

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT
COMMISSION HEARING ROOM
4200 SMITH SCHOOL ROAD
AUSTIN, TEXAS 78744

COMMISSION MEETING

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Y'all ready to rock and roll? Okay. Good morning, everyone. I'd like to call the meeting of the Commission to order at 9:07 a.m. CST on January 24, 2019.

Before we proceed with any business and Carter does his -- reads his statement, I would just like to observe that Commissioner Scott, some things never change, he has a conference call. Or at least that's what we'll hear. I'm jesting with our friend; but we're going to go ahead and start, and he'll be here shortly.

Carter, would you please read your public notice?

MR. SMITH: Yes. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. No comment on the conference call.

For the record, public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551 Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act. Mr. Chairman, I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting.

Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, just want to join all of you in welcoming everybody. We've got standing room only this morning, which is great. I suspect most of you are here for the awards and special recognition ceremony this morning and a lot of you have come from all over the state to join us and we're honored to have you with us today.

Just a little bit about the schedule for those of you who haven't been to a Commission meeting. We will spend the first hour, hour and a half with respect to the special awards and recognitions. And after that, the Chairman will call for a break; and anybody who's not planning on staying for the remainder of the Commission Meeting, please feel free to get up. Also, obviously, if you need to leave before that, please feel free to do so.

Anybody that's here to speak on any of the action items that the Commission will be taking up later in the morning, just want to respectfully remind you to sign up outside; and at the appropriate time, the Chairman will call you up to speak and share your position on that matter. Each speaker will have three minutes to address the Commission and please let them know your name, your affiliation, and your position for or against the item that's being considered.

With that, I'll turn it back over to you, Chairman, and we'll proceed. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. First, I'd like to announce that Commission Agenda Item No. 1, a Pipeline Easement, Orange County, Approximately 1.3 Acres at the Lower Neches WMA has been withdrawn from today's agenda.

Next, the approval of the minutes from the Commission Meeting held November 7th, which have been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER WARREN: So move.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Commissioner Warren. Second Commissioner Galo. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: No opposition -- hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Next is acknowledgment of the list of donations, that has also been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: So moved.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Commissioner Latimer. Second Commissioner Lee. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Next is consideration of contracts, also those have been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

Commissioner Warren. Second Commissioner Galo. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Now, for special recognitions, retirement, and service awards. Carter, will you please proceed with that?

MR. SMITH: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. Mr. Chairman, we're going to have to take some things out of order. That conference call apparently also caught up former Commissioner Bill Jones, who appears to be conspicuously absent from his ceremony honoring him this morning. So I can't imagine that that fact will be lost upon the Commission when he arrives.

So we're going to skip down and I want to start off just by publically thanking our wonderful partners and friends at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation that are with us today and Apache Corporation who is also with us today. All of you are acutely aware of this just extraordinary and impactful challenge grant that Apache has made to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation to help us with the repairs and more at Balmorhea State Park. You know Balmorhea is one of the great treasures and jewels of the state park system. Established by the men of the Civilian Conservation Corps way back in the 1930s. Built around the fabled and famous San Solomon Springs that just gush out over 15 million gallons of pure, crystal clear water a day, creating this oasis literally in the middle of the desert and it's just been a gathering spot for, you know, people and wildlife for eons and a very, very special place in the state park system, as all of you know.

And, of course, you also know the story last summer when our team at Balmorhea was in the throes of their annual spring clean-up and they discovered the failure of a pool wall that looked like it was about to collapse. And sure enough, after decades of, again, 15 million gallons of water a day seeping back behind that wall and passing through what is the world's largest spring-fed swimming pool, by the way, we noticed what was about to be a catastrophic failure and that led to the closure of Balmorhea pool, something that we were deeply concerned about and then looking at the sticker shock of what was going to be likely a $2 million repair job, of which funds we had none from -- for.

And out of nowhere, I'll never forget a call one afternoon from Castlen Kennedy and Obie O'Brien, old friends at Apache, that asked if I could get on a call later that afternoon with their CEO John Christmann; and out of that call, John quarterbacked an initiative in which Apache would make a million dollar pledge to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation with the hopes of challenging other friends to help raise another million dollars to help, again, with the repair and recovery of this just beloved and iconic pool.

And the Foundation and Apache, again, just went to work and the results are extraordinary. Almost 600 individual donations to support this. John and Apache and the Foundation have invited some other friends that have come from around the state that have made some very substantive donations to support this effort and just on behalf of all of us, we're extraordinarily grateful. And I want to ask Apache's CEO, John Christmann, to come forward and share a few words.

Some of you know John for his 30-year career in the oil-and-gas business, 20 years at Apache. A real visionary in that sector and a real believer in companies giving back to the communities in which they're working and this is a wonderful hallmark for that.

And, John, we're deeply grateful to you and your team and our longstanding partnership with the Foundation and this work together. So, John, welcome. Thank you.

(Round of applause)

MR. JOHN CHRISTMANN: Very, very touching. Thank you, Carter. And thank you to the Commission for having us today, and thank you for our friends and partners.

Apache is honored to be here and celebrate the completion of this campaign in support of Balmorhea State Park. It's also a great pleasure to be able to recognize the many generous individuals, families, and companies who stepped up in support of our effort.

I'd like to provide a little historical context for why Apache is here today. For us, it all started in the 1950s with our founder Raymond Plank, who just passed away last year at the age of 96. Raymond, an avid outdoorsman, recognized early on that conservation of our natural resources and energy development are not mutually exclusive. He also instilled certain core principles in the company's culture that live on to this day. He ensured Apache did the right thing for investors, partners, employees, and for the many different groups we interact with as a company.

Sixty-five years later, that same philosophy still drives how we do business at Apache. When we heard early last year about the pool, the first thing we thought of were the many demands the Department already has on its plate from damages sustained by Hurricane Harvey to other critical infrastructure projects statewide. Balmorhea State Park is a national -- is a natural treasure and an icon of West Texas, and it's also a critical part of the local economy; but most importantly, it's a special place to the residents of the entire West Texas region, many of whom are Apache employees, partners, and friends.

It wasn't a matter of if, but a matter of how we would help. We reached out to Carter and the Foundation to see what it was going to take and our team went to work and I've got to tell you, my team did go to work. I'm here representing them. We called our friends and business partners and asked them to call their friends and business partners.

As of last Thursday, together with the good folks at the Foundation, we reached our $1 million goal that was just matched here today dollar for dollar. That means a total of $2 million will go towards repairing the pool, ensuring that much needed resources are not diverted from other parks statewide. We certainly wouldn't be standing here without a lot of help. The campaign has brought in donations from companies, families, and over 575 individuals from Amarillo to Brownsville to Dallas.

Apache would like to extend our deepest thanks and gratitude to each and every individual who stepped up to join us in this effort. Whether you gave $5 or $500, each and every contribution is tremendously impactful and appreciated. I'd like to recognize a few special folks here with us today who played a major role in helping us get to our goal. Please stand to be recognized. Legend Energy Services represented today by Trey Ingram.

(Round of applause)

MR. JOHN CHRISTMANN: Bubba Saulsbury and Stephanie Gentry from Saulsbury Industries.

(Round of applause)

MR. JOHN CHRISTMANN: Tyler Glover and Robert Packer representing Texas Pacific Land Trust.

(Round of applause)

MR. JOHN CHRISTMANN: And Reid McCoy and his team who are here on behalf of the McCoy Remme Ranches.

(Round of applause)

MR. JOHN CHRISTMANN: These folks played a significant part in the success of this campaign, and we are tremendously grateful for their support. As you can see, this effort has brought together partners across the energy industry from construction, royalty owners, landowners, and of course citizens across Texas from every walk of life. Another big thank you to everyone.

While we've accomplished the initial goal of restoring the pool, the park still faces longterm challenges. Like other parks statewide, there are issues of deferred maintenance projects and foregone improvement efforts due to the lack of resources, which leads me to some exciting news. I'm pleased to announce today that Apache is committing an additional $1 million in support of Balmorhea State Park. These funds will be used to establish a permanent endowment housed within the Foundation that will provide incremental support to assist the park in fulfilling its mission of enhancing visitor experiences and conserving a truly unique resource.

As a reflection of our core values that Raymond set years ago, Apache has and will remain committed to this community in West Texas for many years to come. However, Balmorhea State Park is just one of over 90 parks statewide. Most everyone in this room is all too familiar with the challenges the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department face every year from growing demands for the services they provide to the resources needed to meet those demands. It's a very difficult job.

The work the Department does is critical to the quality of life we all enjoy as Texans. Providing the public with outdoor space and opportunities to spend time with our families to enjoy the very best that Texas has to offer, are all reasons we need to ensure Texas Parks and Wildlife has the resources it needs. While private and corporate philanthropy has and will always play an important role in support of this mission, I hope that as Texans, we can see the wisdom in providing more permanent public funding to support this critical mission for an ever growing population because who wouldn't want to move to Texas?

Look no further than the Palo Duro Canyon, the Devils River, or Mustang Island. Apache will continue its longstanding support of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in calling for more permanent and dedicated public funding to meet these critical needs. Thank you again to everyone who has joined us in this effort and a special thanks to the team at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation for all of their support and, of course, to the men and women of the Department who dedicate their lives to conserving and protecting the wild landscapes of Texas. Thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: We'll take that. Okay, yeah.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I only -- I only wish that your remarks had been heard on the floor of the Capitol. I really mean that. Thank you very much.

(Round of applause)

MR. SMITH: Thank you, John, Apache, the Foundation, and everybody for supporting this extraordinary effort.

We're going to now move back in the agenda. Our two guests that we were waiting for have arrived.

Bill, you've got a hard act to follow here. It's -- that's pretty impressive.

I am remiss by the way, Commissioner Bell and Commissioner Aplin, in welcoming y'all. This is your second day on the Commission. We're honored and thrilled to have you. I'm delighted that we didn't run you off after day one.

I will share this quick little vignette that I think you in particular will appreciate. We got a little hypersensitive about that a number of years ago when Dan Allen Hughes was appointed to the Commission and his inaugural meeting was one that we no longer have, for reasons you will soon understand, and it was our annual summer budget workshop and it was in July and you can kind of think of it as a hybrid between your college intro to accounting class and reading "War and Peace" to help cure your insomnia.

It was an eight-hour introduction to government budgeting and Dan Allen, being appointed to the Commission, felt like he had to come back from some far-flung place around the globe where he was and he came and he endured eight hours of introduction to government finances and state budgeting and the next day, I got a call from him the next morning and Dan Allen was his usual gracious and polite self and allowed how honored he had been to be appointed to the Commission and how excited he was about it and then he really got to his point.

And he said, "Carter, you know, really I've got a lot going on and it was so nice of Governor Perry to do this; but is this what all of the meetings are like?"

So we tried to adjust accordingly. And so now as we welcome y'all to the Commission, obviously, we're also saying goodbye; but not really. The Parks and Wildlife Commission, as all of you know, is a bit like the Hotel California. You can never leave. And I think Bill Jones absolutely knows and embraces that in spades.

Bill has just been such an extraordinary gift to this body. His public service throughout the state really is incredibly well known from his leadership at Texas A&M to his seven year tenure here on the Parks and Wildlife Commission. And I was thinking about an incident with Bill not long after he joined the Commission and again thinking about, as all of you know, his just very, very deep political acumen and also his just wonderful sense of humor and ability to laugh at life.

And it was one of his early Parks and Wildlife Commission Meetings and the Legislature happened to be in session and Bill came into the meeting and he got there and I could see him looking at the agenda and as you'll sometimes notice, you'll -- when his mind is turning, his face turned up and the slightest of grins as he was looking at the agenda. Then I saw him grab his notepad and scribble a note and folded it up and he passed it around the table and it landed at me and I kept it because this is what it said. "Carter, clearly we are in legislative session when our lead issue for the Parks and Wildlife Commission Meeting is butterflies."

And so no dummy that one to say the least. Bill did so many wonderful things for this Department with his leadership on the Commission. Craig Bonds was reminding me about Bill's leadership on the San Marcos River Task Force. A really sticky issue that, you know, we've had to contend with between the conflict on landowners and fairly inebriated -- maybe really inebriated -- college tubers from San Marcos and liveries and Sheriff's Offices from three counties in some way to try to help get a handle on what has been a really, really difficult situation. And Bill's leadership and unflappable nature and gift for diplomacy and working with people from all kinds of backgrounds was really a steadying influence and force on that and just so grateful for those kind of projects that he took on.

What Commissioner Jones I think was most known for with his service on the Commission, of course, was his leadership on that internal audit function for the Agency and really emphasizing the critically important role of governance and board scrutiny on the actions of the Department. And the genesis for that came early on.

He and I got together after he was appointed and we're having breakfast and he asked me to give a little overview of the Commission and the kind of things that y'all would be dealing with. And so I waxed on about all of these great, you know, state parks and all the cool work that our game wardens did around the state and he was going to get to be involved with projects of deer and Bighorn sheep and Redfish and Red snapper and neighborhood fishing and all these great places. And you know Bill. He listened very politely, as he is wont to do and said, "That sounds great, Carter. I'm really excited about learning about that. But let me tell you what I'm really interested in, want to get involved in."

I said, "What's that?"

And he said, "Internal audit." He said, "You know, you're going to think I'm crazy," and my -- clearly, my long pregnant pause gave it away that, yes, I did think he was crazy and then he elaborated how that was the first committee he had been on when he was appointed to the Board of Regents at Texas A&M and he had a chance really to go deep in the university system and to learn what the university was doing well and what it wasn't doing well and then how he, as a board member, could help improve things. And that completely embodied his tenure chairing our audit committee for the Commission in terms of him really paying attention to those audit findings, things that had to be improved from a system and a fiscal reporting and accounting perspective.

He was always the first one to tell our team when they were doing a great job, but he was always the first one to hold us accountable when we needed to polish the goal. And he has undoubtedly just made us better and better and better, and I just could not be more grateful for Bill for his service.

The last thing, Chairman, I want to share about Bill that I think really embodies his tenure on the Commission, which is going to go forward I know with his long lasting connection to the Department, also goes back to that first breakfast we had and it was right after the Bastrop fires and I think the fires after two weeks raging there at the state park had finally been put out. You will recall that fateful Labor Day in 2011 when we had over 550 wildfires around the state. Bastrop looked like Armageddon. It was just horrific and Bill was asking about the status of things and how things were coming and I told him about all of the colleagues that had lost their homes and the damage to the parks and just -- and all of the communities. It was just horrific.

And Bill didn't miss a beat. He said, "Carter, I'm going to be leaving here in a couple of hours to drive to Houston. Do you mind if I stop by the park and check on our folks there and see how they're doing and let them know I'm paying attention and that I care?"

He went and spent the afternoon with our colleagues at the state park, came back from Houston, and then made a contribution to the Parks and Wildlife Foundation to help our employee recovery fund for colleagues that had lost all their homes and their belongings and it just exemplifies what an extraordinarily compassionate man he is and a great friend.

And so, Bill, I'm very, very grateful for your service. Thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Before Bill takes the podium, I want to also commend him because he not only managed those tubers on the river, we have a tuber up here that he managed for six years.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Let me say that, first of all, I appreciate the opportunity to come and talk to you. If I had known that I wasn't -- that the last meeting was my last meeting, I would have said goodbye at that one; but the appointment came in-between and so I wanted at least the opportunity to come and say goodbye to the Department and to my fellow Commissioners.

I know you have really important things to talk about, like butterflies and flowers in the park, so I won't take up much of your time. But I do want to just talk about three observations that I've made since I've been on the Commission for the last seven and a half years.

The first observation is that the people in this Department work very hard and you have a lot of very, very good people in this Department. And what I mean by that is they go over and above what they're supposed to do. Carter mentioned the Bastrop State Park. That happened literally within a day or two after my appointment, and I went to the park. It was probably a week or so afterwards. The fire was still smoldering and I met the workers there and they were tired. I mean you could tell they were tired, and not one was complaining. Not one.

They were only talking about what they had to do next. They weren't whining about what they had lost. They simply were rolling up their sleeves and getting to work to try to get the park back so that the people of the State of Texas could enjoy it. In working with people like Melissa Parker on the San Marcos River, they worked tirelessly to try to address a very thorny issue: How to have people enjoy the river and yet not disturb the landowners with land along the river.

Staff members, wardens, wildlife biologists, the turtles down at the coast, working tirelessly night and day so that the people of the State of Texas can enjoy the resources of this great state. And I just want to say that that is refreshing and I hope more people become aware of how hard the people in this Department work and how dedicated they are to their service.

The other observation I made is that when this Department is faced with change, that change is eventually adopted wholeheartedly. Now, sometimes it's a little dicey at first and Carter mentioned the audit. When I got here, we were in the process of hiring a lead auditor and we hired Cindy Hancock and I will tell you it was a good decision. Cindy took on the changes that I asked and brought them forth wholeheartedly and most importantly, the Division leaders accepted the changes and it was different. It was different than the way business had been done before. From fearing the auditors walking in and finding something wrong, they went from that to competition to see who could come up with the least amount of findings in the audit.

I don't know if any of y'all remember this; but when Colonel Hunter was here, Law Enforcement was going through an audit at the same time Parks was going through an audit. When Brett -- Brent was Division leader?

MR. LEISURE: Yes.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And Brent and Colonel Hunter I'm pretty sure had a side bet of whiskey on who could come up with the least amount of audits. I mean, it was fierce competition and it was great to see and not because of the competition; but because every time an audit came up with no findings, that meant that that park or that Law Enforcement division was spending the State resources exactly the way they were supposed to. There was no waste and that was what we were trying to accomplish and this Department took that on wholeheartedly.

The last observation I want to make is personal. If you are a poaching suspect in Parks and Wildlife, they will find your ass. Now, let the record reflect before I tell the last part of this story, I did not poach the deer.

MR. SMITH: Sure, Commissioner. Sure.

COMMISSIONER JONES: But I was a suspect in a deer poaching as a Commissioner, along with another Commissioner. And I will tell you that full story, but bourbon will have to be involved; but I will tell you the end of that story. They found us and found that we did not have the deer and then found out that their suspects were actually two Commissioners. They went to Carter, who was hunting just about 40 -- 40 miles away. They went to Carter and Carter happened to be hunting with Colonel Craig Hunter, who was head of Law Enforcement Division at the time. What where the odds?

And they pull into the ranch house with Carter and Colonel Hunter and they tell them what happened, that they had a couple of Commissioners who were poaching suspects. They didn't realize that they were Commissioners who were poaching suspects until they got there and realized, oh my gosh, these are the guys we're after. And Colonel Hunter, if you-all remember, he had a bit of a sense of humor and he said, "Well, I wouldn't worry too much about this. I'm sure that Commissioner Jones and Commissioner De Hoyos are going to have their evening hunt before they call Carter and tell him to fire you."

So the moral of that story is this Department and the people who work in this Department are dedicated and they don't care who you are. If you're a suspect, they will find you.

I just want you-all to know that I really enjoy the relationships that were established on this Commission and in this Department. I'm only a phone call away. I hope you-all will take my phone calls when I call, but I certainly look forward to many years of friendships and sharing of drink and food and memories as we have been over the last seven and a half years. Thank you so very much.

(Round of applause)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Before we move on, I just want to say on behalf of my colleagues and would encourage you to say -- add to this if you wish, that we've had no finer person serve than Bill Jones. He's just a phenomenal man, a great team player, and we're deeply appreciative for all you did and we do intend to continue our teamwork with you just as all of us who ever served up here or out here. That's what makes this Agency different.

(Round of applause)

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I just have one ambition left in life, and that's to convert him from bourbon to scotch.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Well, that's a good lead in because besides serving with Bill for seven and a half years, his -- and I always appreciated how carefully he thought his comments out beforehand. He always contributed and he always added to the conversation and I'll echo Ralph's comment that no finer Commissioner have I served with than Commissioner Jones.

And I also want to take the opportunity to thank him for that cold November meeting in Lufkin, Texas, where he introduced me to -- I'm not sure if it was his uncle or his cousin, but Pappy Van Winkle. My one and only introduction, and it was a memorable evening; but thank you.

MR. SMITH: Chairman, Commissioners, we've now got a couple of graduation ceremonies that we're going to celebrate and I'll give you a little fair warning, one of them involves humans and one involves dogs; but we'll start with the humans first.

I hope all of you are aware of the Game Warden Citizens Academy that our Law Enforcement team started a number of years ago, and it was really the brainchild of former Commissioner Margaret Martin. And Margaret had gone through the FBI Citizens Academy and, obviously, seen other academies like that with Sheriff's Office and police academies and the opportunity to help build more ambassadors for the law enforcement community at the federal, state, or the local level. And Margaret said, "We have got to do this for our Law Enforcement team. Even people who really think they know what game wardens do, really don't know what game wardens do."

And under her leadership and working with Kevin Davis and others on our Law Enforcement team, the concept of this Game Warden Citizens Academy emerged and we're now here to celebrate our third graduating class. We have selected leaders and influencers from around the state that have relationships with the Department and our Law Enforcement team. They care about the work of our game warders, our park police officers, all the men and women that serve this Agency. And they go through a several month class in which they get a deep dive, an introduction to the very diverse responsibilities of our wardens. You know, from the corest of the core work they do serving the counties of Texas to going out and seeing the Game Warden Academy where our game warden and park police officer cadets are trained to getting exposure to everything that our wardens do on land and on water and in the air and our criminal investigative teams and our search teams and our dive teams and search and rescue teams. It's just a great, great, great exposure to their work and, of course, our hope is that the graduates will not only will become more informed about the critical work of our Law Enforcement team, but that they will be ambassadors out in the communities and advocates for the work of our game wardens whose work oftentimes is not as well-known as we would like for it to be.

This is our third graduating class. It's a wonderful group of individuals, many of whom y'all will know from a lot of different backgrounds around the state. And I want to call out everybody's name and just say a word or two about each one. At the end, ask them all to come up so that we can take a group picture. And I don't think we've got all 19 of them here, but we've got a goodly number of them.

I saw Dan Flournoy from Houston. Dan and his family have got a wonderful ranch out in West Texas. Former Lone Star Land Steward Award winner. He's been very involved in Texas Wildlife Association and has been the Chair of our "Gear Up for Game Wardens" campaign with the Parks and Wildlife Foundation to help raise funds to get needed equipment for our Law Enforcement team.

Thomas Freund out of San Antonio, who we built a relationship with that was borne out of tragedy in his family in which they lost their son Scott and created a foundation in his honor and memory and they made contributions to the Department to have a water safety and boater safety video prepared that is shown to everybody who's taken driver safety. It's just a wonderful legacy out of tragedy and we're just very grateful for Thomas for going through the academy.

Zach Johnson is also here. He's the Chief of Staff to Chairman Phelan. Grew up there in Southeast Texas and been long involved with CCA and supporting of the Department and our game wardens in particular. We've got a great relationship with Zach and Chairman Phelan down at the Capitol.

Marty Markl is also here, and Marty's a member of our Operation Game Thief Board. He and his wife live on their ranch there Decatur. Very involved, International Wildlife, Crime Stoppers, lots of wildlife and conservation organizations and so we're thrilled to have him go through it.

Kaleb McLaurin is also with us. Kaleb is an old friend. Grew up in East Texas on a family ranch there. He's head of Governmental Affairs for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and so they're one of our closest partners and we get to work very closely with Kaleb around the Capitol on matters of mutual interest.

Marissa Patton also is here as well, and Marissa comes from a longstanding agricultural family up in the Panhandle. Proud graduate of Texas Tech, I must add and insert in there. We got to know her when she was also working initially at the Cattle Raisers and then she moved over to the Farm Bureau and work with her on a lot of property rights and wildlife and endangered species related issues.

Dr. Peggy Russell is a retired doctor here in Austin, a proud mom and grandmom. Been a supporter of our Gear Up for Game Wardens campaign and we're delighted that Dr. Russell went through the academy.

Tom Schneider also went through the academy. Some of you may know -- if you don't know Tom, who's had a long and successful career in commercial real estate, may have met his wife Esther. She's very involved on the board of the National Rifle Association, very involved there, as well as Boy Scouts and various military support charities around the state and the country. Just wonderful givers and philanthropists and we're thrilled to have Tom go through the academy.

Randy Teinert out of Lubbock up in the Panhandle, another great supporter of our Gear Up for Game Wardens campaign and our Law Enforcement team. He and his family own Teinert Metals, which provide a whole range of metal and steel fabricated products that they sell all over the Permian Basin and the Panhandle.

Ben Vaughan here in Austin. An old, dear friend of this Department. A rancher in South Texas and oil-and-gas lawyer. Very involved with CCA. He was an inductee into the Parks and Wildlife Foundation Hall of Fame for his lifelong work in conservation. You know, his dad was a former Chair of the Game and Fish Commission right before the merger with the Parks Commission to create what we know now, of course, as the Parks and Wildlife Department.

Natalie Wolff out of San Antonio. One of the many proud Aggies in this room.

(Round of whoops)

MR. SMITH: They're getting a little quieter again. I'm worried about them.

Natalie was a range con with NRCS and just had a wonderful career there before she was recruited over to be the Executive Director of the Texas Brigades, which are all those youth camps and she's done a fabulous job leading that organization. It's a great partnership among many entities and excited about Natalie going through it.

And then last but not least, Stephanie and Jerel Wottrich here in Austin. They have a chiropractic business here in Austin that people just rave about here. They also been very involved in various hunting and outdoor related efforts. Namely, the Safari Club. I think Stephanie serves on the national board. They're both very involved with the Austin chapter and, again, very supportive of these outdoor and wildlife and conservation and law enforcement efforts.

And so with that, I want to announce the graduates of our third Game Warden Citizens Academy and ask all of them to please come forward so we can get a big group picture. As well as Margaret, I hope you'll come up as well. And our Law Enforcement team, I think you know who you are. And so let's give them a big round of applause.

(Round of applause)

MR. SMITH: I missed two apparently. Sherry Sultenfuss. Where's Sherry? Okay. Sherry, welcome. Thank you.

And who else, Susan?

Sterling? Where's Sterling? It's -- yeah, Sterling Howry. Sorry, Sterling. It's always a problem when I don't follow the script. So shame on me.

(Photographs taken)

MR. SMITH: Well, I think you heard there were some dogs that are awfully excited to see you and they just arrived. A little bit about our K-9 program. This has been an extraordinary addition to our Law Enforcement team and these specially trained dogs and our game warden handlers have just been invaluable in terms of suspect apprehension and evidence recovery, finding lost and missing people, deceased individuals, dead bodies. They've just -- they've been really a wonderful asset to this Department in terms of an extra tool to help our game wardens with their work around the state.

This, by the way, is also the result of the support and partnership of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and the -- it's going to be hard to talk over these dogs. I know you're going to be -- they are excited to see you.

The Parks and Wildlife Foundation recognized that a canine program would be a great addition to our Law Enforcement team and so they provided the funding for the initial purchase of dogs and sending them off to Utah to get their special training and have gradually built up that team. Christy Vales is our captain overseeing it with the famous Ruger, who's been -- had more pictures taken of that dog than I think any individual alive. The paparazzi are following Ruger around everywhere.

But today, we're celebrating K-9 Dexter. And Dexter's handler is Game Warden Kryssie Thompson. Kryssie has been with us for four or five years as a game warden. She's stationed over in Smithville. Has just done a terrific job there. She's been a K-9 handler for a year and Dexter completed his training in Utah recently and has been put to work again on all of the things that we need K-9s to do and have been just an incredible gift.

I remember one of the first accounts I heard from a field game warden about the value of the K-9 program was one of our wardens, Grahame, over in Athens. And he was looking for a deer that he knew had been poached and the poacher had it hidden somewhere and he said he spent three-quarters of a day trying to find a deer that he knew was there, couldn't find it, called over -- I think it was John Thorne who brought a dog over there and within ten minutes, they had located that deer. And so just again, incredibly valuable to our law enforcement related efforts.

Today we're going to commission Dexter formally and Dexter has the distinction of being our first dog trained in human remains detection. And, again, that's critically important for the very difficult and arduous work that our Law Enforcement team has to do in body recovery during drownings and other tragedies and having a dog like Dexter to help on this front is just invaluable.

Dee Halliburton has been worried sick about bringing these dogs in front of y'all for about two months. The last time we pulled something like this, a dog ran over and jumped on top of Craig Hunter and licked him in the face and we're hoping for a reprisal of that today.

Hint, Christy. But I want to ask Kryssie Thompson and Dexter to come forward and then Captain Christy Vales to come forward as we can commission Dexter into full-time service with our Law Enforcement team. Let's give them a round of applause.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Well, Bill, it's going to hell in a handbasket since you've left, I've got to tell you. As Commissioner Lee said, if we can't have butterflies we might as well have dogs while the Legislature's in session. That was great y'all. It's -- we have tried to spruce it up since the summer July budget workshop, you can tell.

So we're going to now move on to a couple of very special recognitions of our colleagues and want to start off with Captain Eric Collins. This is a big award for him and a big award for us. It's the 49th year that the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies has designated an Officer of the Year, and they couldn't have picked a better officer than Eric.

He got out of the Game Warden Academy in 2003. Stationed in Delta and Cherokee Counties before recently being promoted to our captain there in Lufkin in the Pineywoods in a very, very interesting and varied and busy district to say the least. Eric really has just done a terrific job throughout his career. He's one of our go-to guys when we're trying to train officers on deer breeder related investigations. He led one of the biggest investigations in the state that resulted in multiple convictions and he's helped to impart that knowledge and pass that along to other wardens that have just been invaluable.

His fellow colleagues in Law Enforcement also talk about the persistence, persistence, persistence that he exemplifies. Last year, he was convinced that there was a little country road that was a dead-end road going into the Neches in which there was a night hunter shooting deer off of it and he sat on that road for 60 hours at night. Saw all of five cars that entire time and stuck with it and, of course, on the fifth car he got his man. And just always remember as the OGT billboard says, the "Eyes of Texas Are Upon You" and Eric's eyes were right there watching.

He's been a great innovator. Helped to work to bring in new software to make it easier for our wardens to do searches through our license system, again, which really helped for our officer related work. He's deeply embedded in the communities in which he works very prominently helping with sponsoring youth fishing and hunting related endeavors and outdoor activities. He's just got a wonderful can-do spirit and it's just absolutely no surprise at all that the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies named him our Officer of the Year, Captain Eric Collins. Captain, please come forward.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: We've got another officer to honor today and very fitting that our friends from Shikar Safari are here. We have the pleasure of hosting them every year in which they pick a wildlife officer to honor for their distinguished service and contributions to conservation law enforcement and, again, just could not have a better honoree than David Pellizzari. David comes by it naturally. His father, who's a marshal in a town in New Mexico, is a retired sergeant with DPS, and so David did not fall far from the proverbial tree.

2009, he graduated from the Game Warden Academy. Welcomed him into the ranks. He served in Upshur and Palo Pinto, and now he's in Wise County. David is always known as one of the highest performers in whatever district he serves. In that area with Possum Kingdom Lake, you can imagine that he's awfully busy on the BWI and DWI front. Also has made it a real focus to catch folks that were illegally fishing and doing things they shouldn't do behind the dam there at Possum Kingdom.

He led a longstanding arson and insurance fraud investigation in Palo Pinto County on a guy that was trying to commit insurance fraud by burning up a boat. He's just again -- David is always very focused and does a terrific job in his law enforcement duties. He's a TCOLE instructor, a swift water instructor, a firearms instructor. He's a FTO for our game wardens out in the field. Also, as you know, we think of our Agency as very community oriented and we ask our men and women who are in every county in the state to get involved in the community and get embedded and that's very important to all of our teams and our Law Enforcement team in particular. And David there in his duty stations has annually led youth hunts for the boys and girls of Jack County. He started a youth hunt for the kids of military members who had died and giving those kids a chance to get out and get mentored and have time out in the family -- out in the field and meet others.

He sponsored a water safety education course called the Wyatt Dale Event. It's an event put on in honor and in memory of a three-year-old boy who tragically lost his life when he wandered away and drowned there in a lake. And this year, he hosted a water safety event for a thousand people that came to honor that little boy and to learn about water safety from David there in Graham, Texas.

He's been on every kind of emergency response team imaginable from Harvey to Irma and it's no surprise at all that our friends and colleagues at Shikar Safari have named him the International Wildlife Officer of the Year and I'm thrilled that our friends Herb and Eric Stumberg and Eric's young son Erickson is with us -- or was with us, Herb. Was with us, okay -- are going to come up and honor David.

Herb, who many of you know from San Antonio. His dad, of course, a former Parks and Wildlife Commissioner and longstanding ties to this Department and so I want to ask Herb to come forward and Eric if he's still here and, of course, David Pellizzari, this year's Shikar Safari Officer of the Year. David, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Congratulations, David.

And thanks, Herb, for always making the trek up here. Always nice to see you. Thanks for coming.

We're going to now go into our retirement and service awards and nobody is more pleased than me to see that there are no retirements and so I like that. But we've got a number of service awards honoring our colleagues that Commissioner Jones I think just summarized absolute to a tee in terms of their dedicated service and I'm thrilled that the first one is Larry Holmes.

Larry has been with us for 35 years with our State Parks team. He's a proud graduate of Texas A&M.

(Round of whoops)

MR. SMITH: Just right on cue. I love it. Larry started off there at Lockhart State Park as a park ranger. Moved over to what was the Kerrville-Schreiner State Park right there in the middle of Kerrville and they got transferred over as a city park and Larry took on the duties there of our safety officer there. And then in '95, I think it was, he moved down to Choke Canyon working on our maintenance side as a maintenance specialist. Which, again, critically important on that big lake park that's so popular for a fishing perspective.

Larry's been just a great ambassador there at the park. Very involved in interpretive programs. He's a certified archery instructor and does everything he can to help make that park shine for the public that loves to use it and today we're honored to recognize him for 35 years of service, Larry Holmes. Larry, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: One of the great things about these service awards, Chairman, is when we see who's getting honored, oftentimes for the first time get to learn a colleague's given name as opposed to a preferred name. You will recall when we had a chance to honor the former Forest Hunter, who had kept that quiet for years. You know him as Craig and when I found out his name was Forest, I can assure you I got his attention a whole lot quicker than I had prior to knowing that.

Today it's our privilege to celebrate another colleague that has been incognito for 35 years, Ronald. And Ronald -- friends call him Ronny -- his -- we've know him as Brent Leisure for 35 years, but Ronald has had a extraordinary career here. And this little merry band of colleagues here as tickled about this revelation as I am, I can assure you.

Ronald got out of Texas Tech, and actually started his career as a seasonal working in the parks. He was studying wildlife management there in Lubbock and fell in love with the state park system and the next 35 years, as all of you know, have been wonderful and rich history with Brent's contributions. No finer public servant than Brent Leisure. He has done every single thing imaginable inside this Agency and particularly in our parks as a firefighter, as a park police officer, as a lead ranger. He's done interpretation, customer service, superintendent at some of the biggest state parks in the system. He was a Regional Director and, of course, for almost eight years he was our Division Director leading State Parks and overseeing that magnificent collection of 95 state parks historic sites covering, you know, almost 650,000 acres.

When Brent indicated that he wanted to retire after 34 years, we twisted his arm and asked him to stay on for another year in our Chief Operating Officer role after Ann retired and we're just tickled to death that he has. He's just been a real gift to this Agency. His leadership is just absolutely unassailable.

And so many stories that I could tell about Brent, but I'm going to tell one that I think is poignant and emblematic of Brent and it goes back to the Bastrop fire. That's what reminded me of it, Commissioner. Again, y'all remember that horrific set of circumstances and we had about 30 of our colleagues that lost their homes inside that fire. Most of whom worked -- not all of them -- but many of them worked there at Bastrop or Buescher State Park and the Parks and Wildlife Foundation had set up an employee recovery fund to help our colleagues bridge their way through that and the fires were raging.

Brent was head of the State Parks team at the time and lived in Bastrop and the fires lasted about two weeks and every morning, Brent would come into the office from Bastrop for a couple of hours and then he just couldn't help himself. He'd run out to the park and spend the rest of the day and I think most of the evening on the fire line in supporting our colleagues that were out there battling the horrific fires, helping our colleagues that had lost homes and so much and were still, as Commissioner Jones said, trying to do everything they can to save the park and help protect it.

And after I think, Chairman, I think it was the fourth or fifth day that Brent had come into the office one morning and each time I had noticed something wasn't quite right about Brent. Obviously, he was very haggard. He looked tired, but what I also noticed was is clothes didn't fit and sometimes they'd be baggy, sometimes they'd be tight and it was just -- it just -- Brent is not known necessarily for being a snappy dresser. Let me quickly say that. But his clothes didn't fit and so -- but I knew he was whipped and I just called him in the office and I said, "Hey, Brent, what" -- because I was, I was concerned him. I said, "Brent, what's -- your clothes are not quite right here. Are you okay?"

Brent didn't tell anybody, but his house burned down. And Brent was the first one helping everybody else inside that park and our colleagues in Bastrop. Didn't tell a soul that he and his wife and family had lost all of their belongings and so he was just wearing whatever his colleagues at the church would bring over and drop off for him and it's just a wonderful example of his public service, his compassion. He's a great servant leader and we honor him today for 35 years of service, Brent Leisure. Brent, thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: It will be okay, Ronald.

Our next colleague, Captain Zach Havens. Zach has been with us for 25 years and Zach grew up in Brownwood and Zach may be one of the few or very few folks in this Department who's had the distinction of actually working on three different divisions inside the Agency. He worked growing up at summers there at Lake Brownwood State Park and then at Meridian State Park. Again, another little jewel if you have a chance to go see it.

And then his first really kind of more full-time job with the Agency, Craig, was in Inland Fisheries. Worked there at the hatchery there at Possum Kingdom as one of our fisheries technicians and he oversaw a lot of the operations there at the hatchery. Very involved in getting a new boat ramp put in and overseeing our kind of the trustee program with some volunteered labor, I guess would be the way to put that, that worked and helped at the hatchery. But Zach was always interested in law enforcement and wanted to be a game warden.

And so he went through the 45th Game Warden Academy in 1997, and Zach has literally served all over the state from Ector and Crane and Tom Green and Palo Pinto and Eastland and Erath Counties. You name it, Zach has worked it whether it was the pheasant season opener in the Panhandle or the dove opener down in the Special White-wing season, chasing nongame poachers out in the Big Bend, helping with saving people in the floods in East Texas. Anything and everything that a game warden has been called to do, Zach has been there around the state.

He said one of the proudest moments of his life was during that horrific tragedy in Dallas in which five law enforcement officers were gunned down and had their lives lost and so that their fellow officers could attend the funerals of their friends and colleagues, a number of our game wardens went to Dallas and took on the shifts of the Dallas police officers so that the other officers could be at the service and comfort their families and Zach was one of the main attendees in that and it left a huge impression on him.

2016, he was the Midwestern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Officer of the Year. And today, we're honoring Captain Zach Havens for 25 years of service. Zach, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Another colleague, longtime wildlife biologist, Larry Lebeau. Larry has been with us 25 years. Had a great, great career and an interesting start. When he got out of Texas Tech after his degree in wildlife biology, he went to work for T. Boone Pickens working on his ranches up in the Panhandle and working on quail and lots of other habitat management. He did say it was the four years of his life in which he got to work with the best pedigreed short-haired pointers on the planet, and I suspect that is exactly right.

Larry ended up leaving the Pickens' ranches and coming to work for Parks and Wildlife starting out at the Cooper and White Oak Creek Wildlife Management Area there in East Texas. Very involved with the community there. Became the area manager at our Old Sabine Bottoms Wildlife Management Area. And then in 2005, Larry became one of our regulatory biologists working in Smith and Wood Counties and, again, this is some of the corest of the core work that this Department does and our biologists do helping to work with private landowners in those counties, providing wildlife management plans.

Larry is a very accomplished prescribed fire enthusiast and so very involved in helping to introduce responsible and managed prescribed fire back into the Post Oak. Involved in all kinds of surveys from alligators to waterfowl to deer and doves and doing everything we can to ensure that this Department is supporting private landowners in managing fish and wildlife as well as he can.

He's based out of Tyler. He manages our joint facility that we call the Tyler Nature Center in which we've got State Parks and Inland Fisheries and Law Enforcement and Wildlife. We're about to go through a major refurbishment and renovation of that facility, which is long, long, long, long, long, long, long overdue and nobody is going to be happier on that front than Larry and we're thrilled it's going to happen in his career.

Today, we're honoring Larry for 25 years of service as a wildlife biologist for this Department. Made a huge difference in East Texas. Larry, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague Shelly Plante has been with us 20 years. Shelly started out as an intern and she was working in our Wildlife team and our urban and nongame program and Shelly was really brought on initially after that internship as a contractor to help establish the Coastal Birding Trails and the Coastal Birding Classic and this is a competition among birders that's gained a lot of notoriety.

It started out as a few small teams of very active birders that would go down to the coast in the spring migration and compete to see who could see the most birds during those spring migrations and spring fallouts that are so legendary along the coast. Under Shelly's leadership, that's now grown into a really if not a nationally, an internationally recognized competition in which well over 100 teams scatter around the state during the spring to have the contest to see who can see the most birds during the migration.

More importantly is they're raising every year tens of thousands of dollars for conservation that are invested back into projects around the state and that's been the great brain trust of Shelly. She works in our Nature Tourism team there in Communication and she was responsible for helping to start all of the wildlife trails around the state. You'll see the signage and the maps for wildlife enthusiasts and destinations that nature tourists can stop to look at interesting and varied wildlife around the state. Forged great partnerships with TxDOT and the Travel Tourism Industry Association and communities all across the state.

She worked with our Inland and Coastal Fisheries team to help really build upon the initial launch of the coastal paddling trails. We now have over 75, I think, paddling trails around the state. Inland, Coastal, and again that growth has been in no small part due to Shelly's contribution to that. She is a recognized go-to person across the state if a community, big or small, is interested in how they can help develop that part of their tourism sector from a nature tourism, it's a great demographic to attract the community. Shelly Plante is the go-to person.

She's done a wonderful job representing this Agency across the state. Very proud of the respect that she's earned and today we're thanking her for 20 years of service, Shelly Plante. Shelly, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Last but not least, Andy Wallace. Andy has been with us for 20 years in our Inland Fisheries team and he's a technician out of the Fort Worth office there in the district office.

And, Chairman, you know what a critically important that role is from a fisheries perspective and Andy's responsibilities working with our biologists and technicians up there in the district. There are a dozen big lakes up there that our Fisheries team is responsible for monitoring and managing and stocking and surveying. There's over 100 smaller impoundments and kind of public lakes and little reservoirs that Andy and his team work on up there for this Department.

He manages all the gear. The office sits on about a 60-acre area that's kind of a nature preserve there west of Fort Worth and part of his duties are managing all of that, again, along with all of the gear that our folks need for that regular and intensive sampling that they're doing all of the time.

Also, as I've mentioned with some of our other colleagues, I love the fact that he's very involved in the community and outreach related events and trying to introduce folks, families, young people in the outdoors to our neighborhood fishing program, help form a partnership with the Lena Pope Home to get families out to fish. Andy has helped quarterback that, which is great. Every year he helps host a special fishing trip to get paraplegics out to give them a chance to come fish, and you can only imagine the amount of the effort that goes into planning that; but he's just a wonderful public servant and giving back to the community and the state and the waters and the fisheries that he loves. And today, we're proud to honor him for 20 years of service, Andy Wallace. Andy, bravo. Thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, Commission, that concludes my remarks. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Before we take up any business, I just want to say again on behalf of the Commission and the Department how incredibly appreciative we are of the leadership of Apache and its employees. I just don't know what this state would do without the support of businesses and private philanthropists and I just want to say thanks for taking time to come and thanks for your incredibly generous add-on donation and all of the others who came today. Bubba, your team.

Anyway, we're super grateful to all of you and appreciate you very much. Thank you.

(Round of applause)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: So at this time, the audience is welcome to stay; but it's a -- we're going to break for -- I say take a break; but it's a good time if you wish to leave to go ahead and do so before we take up Action Item No. 1, a pipeline easement, which will bore you to tears maybe.

(Recess taken)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. I want to confirm that Action Item No. 1, the Pipeline Easement in Orange County at the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area has been withdrawn.

So that takes us to Action Item 2, Acquisition of an Access Easement in Bexar County at Government Canyon State Natural Area, Trey Vick. Welcome, Trey.

MR. VICK: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Trey Vick. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. I'm here today to present an acquisition of an access easement in Bexar County. It's approximately a tenth of an acre at Government Canyon State Natural Area.

Government Canyon is located in Bexar County, the northwest side of San Antonio. The 12,000-acre state natural area was acquired by the City of San Antonio to protect recharge of the Edwards Aquifer. The land was transferred to Parks and Wildlife for the creation of the state natural area in the mid 1990s. Local staff has -- and a neighboring subdivision on the north side of Government Canyon are working on a plan that would provide an emergency access easement through the subdivision and connect to a public road.

Staff believe this easement acquisition will increase the overall safety and protection of the SNA, the resources, in any event that we need to get some first responders up there, to get legal access to the SNA. This map will show you kind of the -- in relation to which part of the Government Canyon we're looking at and this is a close-up of the tenth of an acre that we are looking to acquire.

The -- I guess the back story on this is we've always had a handshake agreement with the rancher that owned that piece of property. The ranch has since sold to a developer, and the developer is eager to work with us to give us access to that public road you see in the photo.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Trey, is the area in red fenced, our boundary fenced?

MR. VICK: It is. And we have --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: High fenced or low fence?

MR. VICK: It's just a regular barbwire boundary fence.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And this -- the proposed easement, would it be open or just gated or what's involved?

MR. VICK: Well, it has a gate. We'll have a gate there. We have an existing gate now that will need to be moved just a hair; but that's how we access that part of the state natural area through the ranch, through the ranch road. But like I said, since -- you know, the ranch has been sold and now we're working with the developer.

We've received no public comments on this item. And if there's not any more questions, staff recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire an approximately tenth of an acre easement in Bexar County for additional access to Government Canyon State Natural Area.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions or comments?

I have one question. Without -- I'm not asking you to divulge the terms, but have we reached the terms of a proposed agreement that would subject to Commission approval?

MR. VICK: We're in the negotiation steps right now. So nothing has been finalized. We wanted to get y'all's permission before we really inked anything.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Do you have any comments, Carter?

MR. SMITH: Well, Chairman, just that we'll make sure that we'll work closely with Trey on this. I'm confident that Trey and his team are going to make sure that the State's interest is very well represented and protected. And I'll report back to you on it, if that's okay?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: That's fine with me --

MR. SMITH: Great, yeah.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- if that's fine with everybody else.

Okay. Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: So moved.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Commissioner Warren. Second Commissioner Latimer. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Thank you, Trey.

MR. VICK: All right. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Action Item 3, Donation of Land in Reeves County, Approximately 5 Acres at Balmorhea State Park. This is exciting, Ted.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth and I'm with the Land Conservation Program and this is an exciting item. Most of y'all are familiar with Balmorhea State Park. You heard something about the park earlier. Lots going on there.

It is a magnet for folks out in Central West Texas, Reeves County. About 25 miles north of Fort Davis. As Carter mentioned this morning, it's a Conservation Corps park developed in the 1930s. Boasts almost a 2-acre pool, a spring-fed pool, crystal clear. The park is just barely 100 acres; but attracts over 150,000 people a year.

We've had concerns for many years now about the size of that park and its capacity for all of those visitors and we've worked with -- we've stayed in close contact with our neighbors all around looking for possibilities for expanding not just the acreage, but the usable footprint of that park. And the west boundary of the park is an unnamed county road and the landowner to the south of the park owns five acres and the Weinacht family has always been friends of the park and good neighbors to the park, but they had plans to develop that into an RV park and had permits to do that and Deirdre Hisler, who's in the audience today who used to work for us, did a great job working for us and then the Nature Conservancy -- did we trade her for Carter? I'm not quite sure what happened. But the Nature Conservancy ended up with Deirdre.

MR. SMITH: They got the better deal.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: And she sat down with Ellen and spent some time with Ellen and convinced Ellen that the right thing to do is to -- would be to donate that tract -- and you can see it here -- donate that tract to Texas Parks and Wildlife for addition to the park. It is a critical tract if we're ever going to get the traffic off of Highway 17 before somebody gets killed. I mean, it's a 75 mile an hour road and cars get backed up for miles on that road. There's no shoulder. It's just a dangerous situation. If we're ever going to get people off of that road and safely parked and relocated somewhere else, it's going to absolutely require this 5-acre piece of property that the Weinachts have graciously agreed to donate.

But, again, I want to give Deirdre the credit that is due for her spending time with Ellen and I'm not going to speculate on how many beers they passed back and forth in the process; but Deirdre did convince her it was the right thing to do and she, again, has actually deeded that now to the Commission. We've received no public comments regarding that item and if you will authorize the staff to -- if you'll authorize the Executive Director to accept that donation, we'll add it to the park. And, again, I would like to -- Deirdre, would you stand up? Would you -- Carter, could we get Deirdre to come up here and say something?

MR. SMITH: You bet.

Chairman, would it be okay if Deirdre said a word? I know you would like to thank her too, Chairman.

Deirdre, would you please come to the front?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Yes, Deirdre. We haven't voted yet, but I'm pretty confident that this is not going to be a problem. We really, really appreciate your efforts here and it's fantastic for the state and this special park and we're very appreciative of that.

MS. DEIRDRE HISLER: Thanks, Chairman.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you.

MS. DEIRDRE HISLER: You know, it's kind of hard. I mean, y'all put me in a real difficult position. First you do Government Canyon and then -- which is where I pretty much started my career -- and then going to Balmorhea, but I just want to assure you that I still bleed Texas Parks and Wildlife green. And when I was here and John was talking about the Apache, I work with Apache a lot out there. And when he was talking about that donation, I was trying to text Brent who was my supervisor --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Ronald. That's Ronald, by the way.

MS. DEIRDRE HISLER: -- for most of my career. Ronald. Well, actually his name is Hank. So Brent has a West Texas name. If you want to call him something, that's Hank; and I can give you some other ones, too.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, we'd like to have those.

MS. DEIRDRE HISLER: Yeah. But I was thinking, you know, I probably should come up here and let y'all know, you know, that the Weinacht family are a very humble ranching family in Balmorhea and it didn't take any type of hard discussion because, you know, it was just like do the right thing. And all of us are big swimmers. We love Balmorhea. West Texas is fully embraced in protecting Balmorhea however that needs to look. So count me on your team. I'm an Apache fan. And I just may ask you for my job back, Brent. So thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Deirdre, thank you so much and we're glad you are a part of our team and hope you will continue to do so and thank you again for all you did to help make this happen.

MS. DEIRDRE HISLER: Thank you.

(Round of applause)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Is there a motion for approval? Commissioner Bell. Second Commissioner Morian. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries. It's part of the -- it's now part of the portfolio.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Your next presentation is on an exchange of access easements at Big Bend Ranch State Park in Presidio County.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This proposed transaction would take place at Big Bend Ranch State Park in the Big Bend Country of Brewster and Presidio County. It's our largest state park by far at somewhere around 310,000 acres.

The proposed exchange would occur in that La Mota Ranch area, just east of what we call the "panhandle" portion of the state park. The park was acquired in -- or the first 200,000 acres were acquired in 1988. Now, again, over 300,000. A big park. Twenty-two miles of frontage on the Rio Grande. A hundred miles of boundary in common with adjacent landowners and because of that and because of the terrain out there and access issues and fencing issues and so forth, we do have good working relationships with a number of our neighbors, including the owners of the La Mota Ranch.

In 2000, in fact, the owners of that ranch donated 13 -- over 13,000 acres to the state park. At the time, they let us retain a 10-mile easement running north and south through their ranch and passing near the ranch headquarters, which was our best access into a portion of that panhandle. Last year, y'all authorized us to exchange some property with the La Mota Ranch. We ended up gaining about 600 acres. We also ended up eliminating about five miles of common boundary, simplifying the boundary; but we also -- we also acquired a much, much better road into that panhandle portion of the state park and as a result, have no need for that 10-mile access easement.

The owners have asked us to abandon that. Again, it passes by their ranch headquarters and there's really no need for it for us. There is an existing road -- I use the term "road" loosely -- but there is a jeep trail in the southwest corner of their property that would -- that connects two of our internal ranch roads that would have far more utility for us from an operational standpoint than that 10-mile long easement. The owners of the La Mota Ranch have agreed that if we will extinguish that 10-mile easement, they will grant us the 1-mile easement. Again, it would have more utility for the state park.

You can see in this map where those two roads are. You can see the existing easement actually terminates at a county road and we now own to the county road and we own a road that crosses that and, again, provides much better access. That little section of road in that south/southwest corner of their ranch, again, connects two internal ranch roads. It saves many, many, many, many miles getting around from that one road -- that one ranch road or the one park road to the other park road.

Those park roads do go to remote camping areas and even if that easement is not much used by the public, staff would be able to use it to get to those locations more readily. We received no public comment regarding this item, and the staff does recommend that the Commission adopt the resolution attached as Exhibit A. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, questions or comments?

I have one. Ted, if you follow the white line that has the designation to the existing easement all the way to the north where it stops --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- you say that's where it terminates at a county road?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. You can actually kind of see that county road in the map if you look, that little line that kind of swings around to the east and on up to the north. That's the Casa Piedra Road.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And does the road continue to the west into our property?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir, it does.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, that was -- I think that's important that we can still run down that county road and access our land where it kind of bottlenecks up there.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir, we can. And also there's a road that runs north from approximately where that easement intersects that road that runs north into the north part of the panhandle that's just a much better road, but it was privately owned until recently and now that we own it, we have much better access than we had.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Motion for approval? Commissioner Galo. Second Commissioner Latimer. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition the motion carries.

Before you proceed, I want to return to the Balmorhea situation. You mentioned a couple of times about the traffic on the state highway?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Would it be possible for you to get with our friends at TxDOT to see if we could lower the speed limit for the -- right in front of the park for a mile or two like small towns and communities do to slow down traffic where you're coming up to an area of a lot of traffic, a lot of people and stopping?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I'm not quite sure what's the name of this gentleman to my left, but I believe he knows more about that situation and working with TxDOT than anyone else in the Agency.

MR. LEISURE: Mr. Chairman, this has been a standing problem for us for quite a long time. Let me first say my name is Brent Leisure, Chief Operating Officer. Brent Leisure. So TxDOT has worked with us and I believe -- I'll confirm it with our former employee -- they have lowered the speed limit some and they've helped with signage along that highway.

We have a longer-term solution and actually this acquisition helps us in that regard and we're going to embark on a planning effort to come down a county road that runs north and south just adjacent to this five acres that's been donated and explore the possibility of coming in -- creating a new entrance to the park and get people off of the highway and so that's one of the things that we're working on.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, let's stay in touch because I still think we ought to try to lower the speed limit right in front of the park. There's no harm to that. It could only help if people were --

MR. LEISURE: Yeah. And I'll have to go back --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- driving 55 instead of 75.

MR. LEISURE: Sure. And it has been lowered and I'm not sure it's 75, Ted. I'll research it and find out what the speed limit is.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Would look into that and then call me?

MR. LEISURE: Absolutely. Sure, sure.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay.

MR. SMITH: Chairman, one other thing. And y'all were at the Supreme Court yesterday, but we talked about the launch of the new and revamped TexParks and the other Commissioners will recall that now, people will be able to get their day use pass in advance. And I don't know if Balmorhea is one the of parks where we've actually identified certain hours where you can reserve blocks, which is going to help a lot on that front.

MR. LEISURE: It will. Right now, at about an hour before opening, you'll have traffic that backs up as much as a mile. Once we implement this new reservation system, they'll have certainty whether they can make it in or not and so we expect that traffic congestion to go down. But I'll get back with you on that issue.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you.

All right. Now, we're to -- thank you, sir. We are to Action Item 5, Conveyance of Access Easements in Van Zandt County at Purtis Creek State Park. Ted, thank you.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. All that's for the record, of course. And this is an item pertaining to a strip of land that we own on the northwest corner of Purtis Creek State Park. This is north/northeast central Texas.

It's a relatively small park at about 1,600 acres; but surrounds a very, very pretty 355-acre lake. A popular, especially day use park at 65,000 visitors a year. A very, very family friendly park. But because of the topography and lay of the lake and so forth, there are portions of the park that are difficult to get to.

So in 2009, we actually purchased a narrow strip of land connecting that corner of the park to the closest county road. We use that -- and there's a dirt road across that that's been there for decades. We use that as an emergency and management access into that corner of the park. The road was put there to serve several landowners that have homesteads that are served by that road. They use that road to this day.

When we purchased that tract, it was clearly an oversight on the part of the sellers. They did not retain an easement to their property and no easement was retained to the other users of that road. And you can see -- you can see where that is labeled "remote access," but you can see in this close-up of that, that there are homes south and some tracts north of that road that rely on that road. In fact, that's their only access to their properties. These are all small acreages.

And this seller has sold one of those tracts recently and we were contacted by the broker and by the title company pointing out the fact that there was no legal access to any of those tracts and requesting that we remedy that by issuing an easement. And, again, from staff's perspective, I feel like we're simply correcting on oversight in that 2009 transaction.

We received no public comments on it regarding this item, and the staff does request that the Commission adopt the resolution attached as Exhibit A. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions or comments?

My suggestion yesterday -- and I want to tweak it -- is that the easement allow access for single family homes only, as opposed to not permit industrial or commercial access or manufactured housing in order to be consistent with that being a state park, trying to keep it that way.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: It's at the discretion of this Commission to put whatever caveats they want to on an easement. Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, yesterday we said limited it to residential use and so I'm just tweaking it to say let's not permit any manufactured housing use of the road.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: With that, can I have a motion for approval? Motion Commissioner Scott. Second Commissioner Warren. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

All right. That takes us to No. 6, Action Item 6, Proposed Exchange of Real Estate in Jefferson County, 120 Acres at the J.D. Murphree WMA. Ted, proceed on that, please, sir.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This is an item y'all have seen previously regarding a 120-acre tract at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area in Jefferson County, extreme southeast Texas.

The J.D. Murphree is arguably one of the gems in our wildlife management area portfolio at 25 -- almost 25,000 acres of coastal marshes, bayous, some coastal prairie. I mean, it's very wet. Very, very extremely high usage by a number of coastal species, including migratory and resident waterfowl, waterbirds, alligators, Diamondback terrapins, that whole suite of coastal wildlife. It's very important, and it's adjacent to the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge.

Round Lake is that small, almost circular tract that's almost disjunct to the east of the WMA. There's a line you can see there that actually is a canal that is our only access. The canal does not even connect to the Round Lake. We have to cross a small easement to get from the canal into Round Lake.

Historically, the use of Round Lake has been very limited because of the access issues. Currently, limited to an annual youth alligator hunt. Highway 87, as we discussed yesterday, which now separates the Port Arthur Ship Channel from Round Lake is being relocated because of erosion on the ship channel which is destroying the road. In this map you can see that that road is being relocated and will cross that canal. TxDOT has not expressed any interest in putting a bridge there. So that road and the relocation of a number of pipelines is going to further compromise our ability to access Round Lake for management or for public recreation of any kind.

And so staff and -- well, actually, Port Arthur LNG approached us a year ago about the idea of them identifying property that would be of far more value to the WMA and the Agency in fulfilling its mission and exchanging that for Round Lake. Staff already had their eyes on a tract of land with similar habitat, significantly larger area. We felt like had a significantly greater net fish and wildlife value and much better access for public recreation.

We've been working with that family. We've been talking to that family for about six years, six or seven years, about their willingness to sell the tract. We finally had a strategy for doing that through this transaction with PALNG. They have worked diligently and they have worked through the Conservation Fund who has stepped in and really brokered direct transaction work with the family to get it under contract to PALNG. And if the Commission concurs, we are positioned to go to closing and exchange those tracts.

I had mentioned yesterday that we'd received a comment. This morning we received a comment from the Sierra Club, which pretty much paralleled this comment. They concur that there is a net benefit to fish and wildlife values. They had two concerns. One of which is whether or not the granting of Round Lake or the transaction would result in PALNG's ability to build an LNG plant, recognizing that that's going to have huge environmental impacts. The answer to that is no. The plant -- the design for the plant, all the permitting for the plant occurs on land south of the Round Lake and Round Lake, at this point, would not affect their ability one way or the other to construct the plant they had proposed. The other comment had to do -- the other comment had to do with the fact that PALNG is proposing to take some of the material they excavate from the creation of a berthing facility and use that as mitigation -- not as mitigation, but use that as restoration of some of the degraded marshes in the wildlife management area.

Their concern was that that would be viewed as mitigation for any future impacts to Round Lake. And we don't control, of course, the Corps of Engineers that has jurisdiction; but as far as we know, those are completely separate and should there ever be impacts to Round Lake in the future, they would be subject to the Clean Water Act and Section 404 thereof and all the regulatory guidance that the Corps of Engineers would bring to bear at that time. So that was the additional comment we received.

With that, Parks and Wildlife staff recommend the following motion: The Commission adopts the resolution attached as Exhibit A. And I'd be happy to answer any questions. I would point out that PALNG has representatives here today, as does the Conservation Fund in case you have any specific questions about the transaction.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Vice-Chairman Morian has a question.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Just quickly. I didn't hear it yesterday. But our easement from the J.D. Murphree to Round Lake, you said you had to cross an easement or do we use -- we have an easement for access, that yellow line into Round Lake?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Let me just go to that slide very quickly. The yellow line straddles a canal. The canal passes a few hundred feet south of Round Lake, and there's a section there that we don't own. It's private property. But when we acquired Round Lake, we acquired an easement across that short stretch. So we have to jump an easement as well to get from the canal into Round Lake.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: But we have legal access?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir, we do.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yeah, okay.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: We certainly do.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Any other -- oh, Commissioner Scott.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: And further -- and just to further what Reed brought up, there -- we don't really have any road access, though. The only access is going to be by airboat probably on that easement, right?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: That's correct. There is -- the current 87, as you well know, is only occasionally usable and it does connect to a small tract, about four acres that we own on the road, on the canal; but you still have to get from the other end of the canal and from the canal across the easement into Round Lake. So airboat, maybe under really good circumstances you may be able to get a flat boat in there; but yes, sir, the access is very limited and by water.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Well, having grown up down there and spent most of my adult life down there, I'm very familiar with this area and I'm very familiar with how the Sabine-Neches waterway is -- has rapidly eroded towards this lake and with the highway department going to be doing this bypass, it's probably just a matter of time before it actually eats into that -- into Round Lake because I don't see them spending any resources to keep dumping riffraff and all that that they've been doing for 50 years I know of trying to keep it from getting over there to it.

So in my estimation, it may be showing as a lake right now; but I think that's a very short-lived lifespan in itself. So I don't see any benefit to the Agency for us to retain this Round Lake deal. That's my personal observation over many years. So, obviously, I support the swap, so.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Any other members have comments or questions?

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: I have a question, Mr. Chairman. Does this contemplate us limiting hunting, fishing, crabbing on the 1,280 acres?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Staff has not proposed limiting that. I mean, one of the primary missions of the Agency and of this wildlife management area is to provide really, really high quality waterfowl hunting, alligator hunting, fishing experiences. And unless the Commission asks us to do so, staff is not recommending limiting --

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Nor did I think so. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Anybody else question or comment?

Okay. We have two speaker -- two people who have signed up to speak in connection with this item. I would first like to call Evelyn Merz with the Sierra Club. Ms. Merz, will you please present your comments?

MS. EVELYN MERZ: Yes. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, all. The lady is handing out written comments to you-all right now. Our way of looking at this is that you can look at this situation in two ways. The first is just a simple exchange of 120 acres for 1,280 acres of high quality wetlands, which have improved access and a ten-to-one ratio exchange in favor of Parks and Wildlife. And the other is the creation of a major LNG facility that have implications to lower air and water quality for the entire region, including J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area.

Looking at it the first way, you can't deny the benefits to Parks and Wildlife. It's a great deal, and so we certainly support that. It's also a concern to us that once the Round Lake tract is acquired by Port Arthur LNG, the wetland values and the wildlife currently being supported by Round Lake, which are very healthy, could be impacted. Also, it is -- right now, it is a functioning wetland. It does, as we say, support healthy wildlife and any changes in hydrology could also affect the area not only from the construction of the road, but also the construction of Port Arthur LNG. We are concerned about hydrological effects.

We think that Parks and Wildlife should ideally put restrictions on the property to maintain its wetland values or at least to monitor it very carefully and speak up in favor of mitigation if so, if that is required. And I would like to quote comments that were put forward by Texas Parks and Wildlife dated November 19th, 2018, that Port Arthur LNG planned to place 2.4 million cubic yards of dredged material into TPWD's J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area to restore about 1,269 acres of tidally influenced coastal marsh.

We would like to urge Texas Parks and Wildlife to make sure that this is -- this placement is adequate for any mitigation that is impacted for the surrounding area. We realize this mitigation is not for the damage to Round Lake, but for the entire project overall; but it should also include damages occurring because of the pipeline access. And is this adequate? Is the placement correct? And also is the quality of the dredge material proper? Is it of good quality before it is placed?

We think this simple real estate transaction is not going to impact nearly as much as the construction of Port Arthur LNG. So we ask that Parks and Wildlife monitor the effects of future air and water quality impacts on the wildlife management area and even take baseline measurements of the area so that they can actually monitor the impacts as construction goes forward to make sure that Port Arthur -- the wildlife management area remains as pristine as possible. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you, Ms. Merz.

The next speaker is Alyssa Tharp.

MS. ALYSSA THARP: Thank you, Chairman. My name's Alyssa Tharp. I'm here speaking as an individual. I spoke on this item, I believe, years ago or a similar item related to LNG expansion at the J.P.[sic] Murphree Wildlife Refuge. My first -- I'm speaking in opposition to this proposal. I want to agree with what the previous speaker said that it would be good to take baseline estimates to assess the impact of Port Arthur LNG next to this parkland.

I want to request that any member on the Commission, particularly those such as Kelcy Warren who are directly invested in natural gas, abstain from this vote and all future votes that are about those industries use of public parkland because it's a conflict of interest and it dishonors this Commission to be -- to be doing that. So please abstain, anyone of you that has any investments or direct business in the natural gas industry whatsoever.

Secondly, I request that you vote no because this is not something in a vacuum. Your decision here is within a larger picture of two intersecting crises. First, a mass extinction crises of our planet and I want to just read some statistics for you because, you know, I think that it's valuable that you would expand the J.P.[sic] Murphree Wildlife Refuge in this instant; but I hope that in order to honor your mission here of managing and conserving natural resources and cultural resources of Texas, all of your decisions and this decision need to be made with these facts in mind.

So the Center for Biological Diversity tells us that we have an extinction crisis, that we're in the midst of the six mass extinction of plants and animals. The first that's happened since 65 million years ago with the dinosaurs. That extinction may be a natural phenomenon, but the natural background rate is one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we are now losing 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate with literally dozens going extinct every day.

Also from the World Wildlife Foundation, the earth has lost half of its wildlife from 1974 to 2014. So every decision and this decision that you make in terms of preserving wildlife is made within this context of a mass extinction crises on this planet.

Secondly, climate change is mass crisis on this planet and I request that you look into the summary for policymakers from the IPCC report that was released last October because you are policymakers. So please read that 34-page summary of the climate change report and start including climate change in your decisions on this Commission. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Before you -- sorry. Before you leave, are you accusing Commissioner Warren of having a financial interest in Port Arthur LNG?

MS. ALYSSA THARP: No.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. That's all I want to know.

MS. ALYSSA THARP: I mean, indirectly. Actually --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you very much.

MS. ALYSSA THARP: -- I would say indirectly because the fracking -- LNG is directly linked to fracking pipelines and fracking industry.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. You're off topic if you want to just get up and speak against fracking, but thank you very much. I just wanted to ask you about your position with --

MS. ALYSSA THARP: Well, I said no; but actually I would say yes.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, what evidence do you have of that?

MS. ALYSSA THARP: Because --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Do you have any evidence that Commissioner Warren has a financial interest in Port Arthur LNG? And if you do, let's see it.

MS. ALYSSA THARP: I can e-mail you. I would say generally --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Do you have it with you today? Yes or no?

MS. ALYSSA THARP: (No response).

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Well, thank you. Your time has expired. I appreciate your comments and in defense --

MS. ALYSSA THARP: Any fracking mogul in Texas has an interest in LNG export terminals on our coast --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Would you please remove --

MS. ALYSSA THARP: We have multiple that are proposed --

CAPTAIN LONGORIA: You've been excused.

MS. ALYSSA THARP: It's a crisis. Okay, let me grab my bag.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I want to say for the record that Commissioner Warren fully understands and has followed to the letter our conflict of interest guidelines.

MS. ALYSSA THARP: It's shameful.

(Ms. Tharp is escorted from the room)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: He is a man of the highest integrity and he is exceptionally conscientious and if somebody's going to come up here and accuse him of being conflicted out on an action item, then they need to bring some proof of that. Otherwise, it's a total insult and it's inappropriate.

So with that, is there anybody else who wants to speak on this issue and not on some general topic off topic?

All right. Is there a motion for approval? Commissioner Scott. Commissioner Aplin, do you want to second?

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Yes.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you. All in --

COMMISSIONER WARREN: May I, Mr. Chairman? I think even though the perception of me having a conflict of interest is just way out there. That's ridiculous. This lady doesn't even understand what fracking is, which we don't do by the way. But I think it might be appropriate for me to abstain considering the facts.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, that's your decision. I know of no basis for you to be conflicted out on this vote, but it's your choice if you wish to --

COMMISSIONER WARREN: There is no basis. That's kind of really ridiculous, but --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, I think it is, too; but it's your choice if you wish to abstain on it. That's fine.

COMMISSIONER WARREN: I think I will. I mean, the crazies are out there.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Do we a second to Commissioner Scott's? Commissioner Bell seconded. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. The motion carries 8-0, with Commissioner Warren abstaining. Thank you.

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, if we could, I know that you wanted to say a word to the Conservation --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Yeah, sorry. I got off my thought process here because of those unnecessary insults and so I do want to say -- thank you, Carter -- say how much we do appreciate Julie Shackelford and Andy Jones for their leadership here and the leadership of the Conservation Fund because this is a -- definitely a positive exchange or a -- whatever we're calling it here for the State. The State will benefit in our judgment and we're confident of that and we really, really thank Julie and Andy for all they did to make this happen. We appreciate it so much.

All right. That concludes our action items and takes us to our final agenda item, which is a briefing from our friend Dr. Pamela Wheeler and Mr. Matthew Kennedy on a Survey of Employee Engagement results. Welcome.

DR. WHEELER: Good afternoon or good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. For the record, my name is Dr. Pamela Wheeler and I am the Human Resources Division Director for Texas Parks and Wildlife.

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith, good afternoon. For the record, my name is Matt Kennedy and I'm a training specialist with the Training and Organization Development team, a part of the Human Resources Division here at TPWD.

DR. WHEELER: This morning, what we're presenting to you is an overview of the Survey of Employee Engagement and general results of the 2018 Survey of Employee Engagement, our TPWD climate, the actually identified strengths within the 2018 survey, the identified opportunities, additional interests, and how we will move forward after this survey.

What is the SEE? The Survey of Employee Engagement is a legislatively mandated assessment of organizational climate conducted by the Institute of Organizational Excellence at the University of Texas every two years. The biennial survey started in 1979 at the request of Texas Governor Bill Clements.

Why is the SEE important? It provides the Agency with unique insight into how employees perceive or see their organization and it allows employees a platform to provide information and feedback to the organization. The SEE also lends support to the Agency's biennial Legislative Appropriations Request.

Who participates in the SEE? All full-time employees of Texas State agencies. Now, we're going to look at who sees the SEE and how that works.

MR. KENNEDY: So who sees the SEE? Externally, it's entities such as the Legislative Budget Board, the State Auditor's Office, the Legislature, the Sunset Commission which TPWD will go through later this year, the House Appropriations Committee, and the Senate Finance Committee. Internally, of course, it's our Executive Office, our Division Directors, and now you-all the TPW Commission.

So exactly how does the SEE work? Initially, it is comprised of 50 primary questions that are created by the Institute of Organizational Excellence at the University of Texas. Those 50 questions are then separated into 12 separate constructs, which we'll take a look at here in just a second. Twenty additional questions are then created by TPWD. However, these 20 questions are not scored as part of these 12 constructs; but still speaks to specific areas of interest for our Agency.

The scores are tabulated based off averaging all item responses on a five-point scale. So one would be strongly disagree, five would be strongly agree. These graphics show what the 12 constructs that make up the Survey of Employee Engagement actually are. And we will dive into six of those constructs today; but one thing I want to point out for you is that the 12th construct that you see there of employee engagement, is the only one of the 12 constructs that is made up of questions from the other 11 constructs. So when we examine employee engagement a little bit later, you might see some repetition of questions from constructs, say, such as strategic or supervision reflected in employee engagement.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Sorry. Would you repeat that? I'm not sure I follow the -- why there would be overlap or where the 12 constructs come from. Just if you don't mind.

MR. KENNEDY: So the 12 constructs are just created by the Institute of Organizational Excellence, and each of those constructs speak to a different factor within our workforce in the organization. To answer why employee engagement is different than the other 11, is because it has a broader scope. So it pulls from questions such as from supervision and strategic and community to give an overall picture of how our employees are engaging with that specific construct. Does that answer your question, sir?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Yes, sir.

MR. KENNEDY: Great. The chart below indicates the point chart for the Survey of Employee Engagement. You can see that anything over 400 points is going to be considered an excellent score on the SEE. Anything 350 to 399 is strong, which is exactly where TPWD falls with an overall score of 375. Anything between 300 and 349 is average, and anything below 300 points is concerning. Luckily for TPWD, we only have one construct that falls into that category. Everything else falls into either strong or excellent as an Agency.

DR. WHEELER: Now, this slide shows the survey response for the last three surveys. The average response rate for other State agencies is 55 percent. TPWD's response rate is 72 percent, which indicates that our Agency is highly engaged. This is 17 percent above the average State response rate.

The overall score for TPWD for 2018 was 375. Over the last three surveys, the overall score has changed approximately plus or minus two points. There has been no substantial change over the last four years. So our theme has been one of consistency.

MR. KENNEDY: So these graphics speak to different levels of engagement throughout our Agency. You can see here that 53 percent of all TPWD employees fall into the categories of either highly engaged or engaged. By contrast, about 30 percent of all employees statewide fall into the same category. So on average, TPWD is 23 percent more engaged compared to our counterparts at other State agencies throughout the state of Texas.

You can also see here that 16 percent of our workforce is eligible to retire in the next two years. A couple of things to point out here. First, just because 16 percent are eligible to retire in the next two years, does not mean that they plan to retire in the next two years. Second, this is a self-reported statistic in the Survey of Employee Engagement. By comparison, TPWD's workforce plan indicates that 25 percent of our workforce is eligible for retirement in the next four years.

DR. WHEELER: Now, this is the list of our constructs. This chart represents each of the 12 construct scores over the last three surveys. There hasn't been substantial movement in any of the constructs except for slight variations of community, benefits, and employee development.

This graphic shows the point deviation on the responses from employees who work in the field versus employees who actually work here at the headquarters. Generally, a one to two point deviation would be considered insignificant. The most interesting deviation slide with workgroup, benefits, and pay.

MR. KENNEDY: So this info graphic refers to different climate elements throughout our agency. By and large, you can see here that employees at TPWD believe that we work in a fair, ethical, and harassment-free workplace. You can also see that 21.4 percent of employees believe that the information from this survey will be unused to make improvements to the workplace; but by contrast, that means that about 72 percent of employees believe that we -- 78 percent of employees believe that we will do something with that information.

Either way, it does underline the importance that we do something with this tool that our Agency has at its disposal.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Before you leave that, when you say 21.4 percent believe the information will go unused and of the constructs, the two that are most distinct are pay and workgroup -- I think you pointed that out -- I think each of us up here know pay is a -- it's a concern to us.

MR. KENNEDY: Of course.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And yet we don't have the ability to change it. Is there a -- do you sense that there's a frustration with the Commission or -- because I don't speak for my colleagues, but I think we take what you're presenting very seriously and --

MR. KENNEDY: Sure.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- we try to do what we could to address weaknesses and move the ball forward on positives; but pay is one that, while we can advocate for you and we do advocate for you, we can't fix that. And I just wanted to ask: Do you have any -- do you have any inference that you can draw from the 21.4 as to what part of that is frustration with the people downtown or versus perhaps executive leadership --

MR. KENNEDY: Absolutely.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- and/or the Commission?

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, sir. So I actually -- and we'll talk about this a little bit --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay.

MR. KENNEDY: -- later on --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: If you're coming to it, then --

MR. KENNEDY: Well, not the answer to your question. Just the background to the answer. So I conducted focus groups around the state to get a little bit more information and to bluntly answer your question, no, the frustration does not exist with the Commission. The frustration does exist with the State system as a whole.

I do think there is an appreciation for $7 million LAR request coming out this legislative cycle for salaries. Employees find that advocation to be quite beneficial for them and something that they can kind of hang on to.

DR. WHEELER: Absolutely.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you.

MR. SMITH: Chairman, I'll elaborate onto that. I mean, I might offer that that frustration, one, it's longstanding. It's chronic. This is our biggest Achilles heel in terms of employee satisfaction, morale, engagement, et cetera. You know, I suggest that frustration probably runs deeper than just the Legislature. I mean, it -- for some folks, I think it probably is directed at executive management and senior management and there probably are undoubtedly some that feel like we're not doing enough to address that to reprioritize dollars or re-purpose dollars or to advocate strongly enough. So in fairness to our colleagues, I want to be clear. I think that frustration is probably mixed in terms of where it's directed.

And I appreciate your words. You know, we are making some steps here in this particular LAR and we talked about this with the Commission yesterday about some approvals that we got in the initial House and Senate budget to help start to address this again more systematically and substantively with being able to re-purpose some dollars to get at, again, our most critical compensation related needs. We have a long way to go to catch up to address the payment disparities and inequities that we have between other agencies, state, federal, and the private sector.

This will not be solved overnight, but it is absolutely top of mind. But in fairness to our colleagues, I think their frustration kind of runs the gamut and I just want to make sure the Commission hears that holistically.

MR. KENNEDY: Yeah, absolutely. That's a perfect sentiment that wraps it up exactly right. Yes, sir. Thank you.

So this chart speaks to more of the specific climate questions that kind of make up what climate is throughout our Agency. And I won't go into each one in specific detail, but I'll group them for you to give you an idea that the top three of management, supervisor, and survey, generally speak to how communicate as an organization. And you can see by some of these numbers and the fluctuations that they've had over the last several years, that we have a real opportunity to make some substantial improvements to further along our continued efforts to improve upon our internal communication.

But the bottom three of fairness, ethics, and atmosphere, speak generally to workplace culture at TPWD and employees feel that we are fair, ethical, and relatively harassment free and at the very least, people feel empowered to stop acts of harassment or unsafe acts in the workplace and to see that number continue to increase is encouraging.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And you said 400 is excellent or outstanding?

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And so we're over that in the bottom two and very, very close on the third one?

MR. KENNEDY: That's right. Yes, sir.

DR. WHEELER: So our areas of strength identified in this year's SEE or this past year's SEE, was strategic, supervision, and employee engagement and as you can see, we're right at 400 or a little bit over 400 on all three of those.

MR. KENNEDY: So the first one we're going to look at today is that of strategic. It's an extremely strong score of 404, but our single highest score on any one question in the entire Survey of Employee Engagement lies in the bottom question up here: I have a good understanding of our mission, vision, and strategic plan.

I think there's probably a couple of reasons for this. First, strategic planning through the Land and Water Plan provide a framework for our strategic vision of how we're going to accomplish our very complicated and important mission as an Agency. Every employee who comes through new employee orientation, receives a copy of the Land and Water Plan and they engage in an exercise in which they find out specifically how their role fits into our critical mission.

On the right-hand side of the folders that you were all provided, those white folders, those are the actual folders that all of our D.O. participants receive whenever they come to new employee orientation. Behind the Land and Water Plan, which you-all are already intimately familiar with, is a copy of that exercise. I encourage you to dive a little bit into it in your free to time to find out all of the multitude of ways in which you-all fit into this very specific mission.

But second and most importantly, on a daily basis our employees are literally doing the work that allows TPWD to be so successful. Their passion and their dedication are evident in our pursuit to continually fulfill our mission to the people of Texas. What's encouraging is that we can leverage the SEE as a tool in order for us to further achieve our philosophy statement in being a recognized national leader and natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation programs and it allow us the ability to leverage and get more insight into how we can utilize one of our most important natural resources towards our mission and that's our human resources.

DR. WHEELER: Okay. You're stealing my lines, buddy.

Supervision is our next construct here, and this is consistently a strong construct in the SEE for Texas Parks and Wildlife. The Agency score on this construct was 394 and each -- for each of the last three surveys. While no statement fluctuated more than two points, it is encouraging to see that we continue to give our employees the opportunity to do their very best work. Employee engagement, as Matt stated earlier, is that one construct that is developed from the questions of other constructs.

So most of our constructs are developed with three to six questions at the most. This one has a total of 12. So it's actually going to take up two slides here. So as a result, it happens to be the longest construct. Here, you see again it's at a score that is consistently at 390 and employees are clearly engaged and pretty passionate about the work that they do here within our Agency.

MR. KENNEDY: So now we'll take a look at our top areas of opportunity as an Agency and similar to our areas of strength, they haven't changed a lot over the last several surveys. And as Pamela mentioned, as an Agency we are nothing if we are not consistent when it comes to the SEE.

But the first one we're going to take a look at is pay because it has one of the most stark takeaways and that's the fact that pay is over 100 points less than any of the other constructs in the SEE. As Mr. Smith was just talking about, this is a real concern for a lot of employees throughout our Agency. So we have a little bit of context into it. This graph shows our Agency score on pay for the last 10 SEEs or 20 years. You can see here that there has been a steady decline downward. There's one little spike there in 2010, which can be directly attributed to a legislatively mandated salary increase of 2 percent or $50 per year. But outside of that, make no mistake. It's a linear movement downward here, and employees are continually and perpetually frustrated with pay.

These are the only three questions that make up the entire construct for pay in the Survey of Employee Engagement, but our single lowest score comes on the top question: My pay keeps pace with the cost of living? In fact, this statement has seen a decrease in each of the last three surveys that our Agency has participated in.

One of the biggest reasons why this is such an issue and a point of contention for our employees, really has a lot to do with the cost of living. So earlier you saw a chart that Pamela presented that showed the point deviations between headquarter and field employees on different constructs. Pay was one of those.

The overall score for pay as an Agency was 252, but our headquarter's employees scored nine points less than that at 243, while our field employees scored 12 points higher than our headquarter's employees at 255. So what's the reason for such a large discrepancy?

Quite honestly, pay disproportionately impacts our employees based off of their geographic location. So in order to figure out more about that, we decided to look into what is the single largest expense that our employees have on a day-to-day basis and that's the cost of housing. Here in Austin where our headquarters is obviously located, the cost of an average home is $300,000; but that exact same $300,000 house in, say, Houston is 27 percent less, at about 220. In Dallas, it's 51 percent less at 148. In El Paso and Amarillo, it's 62 percent less at about 113,000. And quite honestly, we should just pack up HQ and move it down to Brownsville where it's 75 percent cheaper down there, $75,000 for the exact same $300,000 home from Austin.

So make no mistake about it, pay continues to be a concern for all of our employees across the entire state; but it also has a disproportionate impact on them based off of their geographic location and cost of living.

Our next lowest construct was that of information systems. But I don't like to use that turn of phrase "our next lowest construct" because look at this score. It's 355, which puts it into the strong category. It's extremely encouraging for TPWD that we continue to even have some of our lower constructs still outscore most other State agencies.

What's exciting to see on information systems is the biggest increase comes on the question: Support is available for the technologies that we use? We've made concentrated efforts in this regard over the last several years, and the impact is showing up in people's responses to the information systems construct in the SEE.

The next construct we'll take a look at is one that does continue to plague our Agency in a multitude of ways because of how we're set up and that we're so dispersed, and that's internal communication. Again, the score is 358. It's an extremely strong score and while these are the only three questions that make up the entire construct for internal communication in the SEE, some of those 20 additional questions that TPWD created, do also speak to internal communication.

So overall, we were able to find that employees feel the top-down communication in the Agency leaves a little to be desired; but our greatest area of opportunity when it comes to how we communicate as an Agency, is finding ways to work across Division lines and communicate freely across those Division lines by breaking down those silos.

DR. WHEELER: Now, areas --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Before you move on -- sorry. I have a question for Matt on that. Is that broken down by Division, or is it capable of being broken down by Division?

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, sir, it sure is.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And is there any material variance between the various Divisions?

MR. KENNEDY: There is, yeah. And it just depends Division by Division. Size of Division matters, as well as geographic disbursement of each Division matters.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: You don't happen to have the Division-by-Division breakdown, do you?

MR. KENNEDY: I do, yeah. I can happily provide that to you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I'd like to see that, and why don't you just send it to everybody.

MR. KENNEDY: Yes.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: If they don't like it, that's fine. I'm just curious how it --

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: How that score hits across the --

MR. SMITH: Yeah, Chairman, so I don't know if we covered this; but all of this information is then stratified by Division and then in our larger Divisions, it's broken down by region and so that helps us pinpoint areas of opportunity or excellence that we can continue to try to model. And so, you know, our Division Directors are then able to get that information, work with their respective leadership teams, and then drill down to, again, the areas that we need to address. So all of this is put in that kind of stratification where it can be more helpful and meaningful to our senior leaders.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: That's where I was going --

MR. SMITH: Yes.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: That's where I was going with it.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. At this level, at a big macro perspective is disbursed, distributed, decentralized, and occupationally diverse as we are, it helps a whole lot more when we're able to drill down by team and even further where we can and so we do that.

MR. KENNEDY: And I have created a chart that puts all of the different construct scores for every Division into a matrix. So I'm more than happy to share that with you, as well as the Division-by-Division reports that we created.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Would you please do that?

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you.

DR. WHEELER: So areas of additional interests, these are our last three areas that we're going to cover: Diversity, workplace, and trust. Diversity and trust are not official constructs in the SEE. The statements within them were actually pulled from the 20 questions that were created by Texas Parks and Wildlife Division.

For diversity, it is encouraging to see that employees believe diversity is a necessity to the Agency's success and that there are several opportunities to improve in the future. I do believe that this will be possible through our five-year diversity and inclusion strategic plan, which was developed by our Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Mr. David Buggs. So there is a lot planned just to address these issues.

Now, here are some demographics that are actually self-reports. These are self-reported within the SEE, and are not the official makeup of our workplace. The demographics question were some of the most unanswered questions in the entire survey. This is not surprising given the concern that employees had about an anonymity, as well as the lack of nonbinary gender options and the inability to separate race and ethnicity within the survey.

On workplace, generally speaking, employees feel safe in the workplace by being empowered to stop unsafe acts and not tolerate harassment. And trust, on this construct there are two questions. The first: I trust the people in my workplace? That one came in at a score of 380. And then you can see there is trust between the Divisions. That one drops to 322. So there is obvious that the respondents seem generally to trust the people that they work closely with within their workplace; however, there's some room for improvement across Divisions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And are you able to identify a Division or a Divisions where there is a perceived lack of trust?

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, sir.

DR. WHEELER: We can. And most of it, we can actually track back to the way we're funded, oddly; and we can talk more about that.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay.

DR. WHEELER: Okay. So now this next slide actually shows you a timeline. That represents a 24-month cycle that begins with the administration of the 2018 SEE. As you can see, most of the top items are completed on this timeline. In 2018, September and October, we conducted 38 focus groups across the state in the following locations: We were in Houston, Corpus Christi, Athens, Abilene, and Austin.

What we were looking for was an opportunity to gain some insight into the various work experiences and the employees' concerns. This is a very data-driven survey. So what we wanted to do was kind of contextualize what are your concerns and dive a little deeper. Matt here was instrumental in being the face of these focus groups.

So, in the next several weeks what we're hoping to do is we'll be sharing the focus group results from our analysis of the those -- actually, the analysis of all of the qualitative data we gathered from the focus group with the Division Directors and assisting them with developing some action plans and initiatives to address concerns.

At the March Commission Meeting, we're hoping we'll be able to update you on the status of some of those action plans and initiatives. If there are favorable responses to the action plans that we implement, we're hoping to see positive change on our scores for the 2020 Survey of Employee Engagement.

In closing, I think you've heard it all day today. Our employees are consistently passionate and very engaged, dedicated to this organization. The SEE is a great tool. What it does is it allows us to be responsive to one of our greatest resources, and that's our human resource. So that ends our presentation. If you have any questions, we'd be happy to answer them.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, this is -- I think this is refreshing to see confirmation that we're doing well in most areas and it confirms what I hear frequently, that this is a special place because people like to come to work here, like Senator Lucio said a couple years ago. Better than any other State agency, people like coming here and they like the mission and like the people.

But that said, I sure think it's a great opportunity to work on these areas where we could get the scores up and would like to ask that this same report be given to the Commission next year, either in January or March, so we can see how we did over this year.

DR. WHEELER: Absolutely.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And in approaching the areas that you have identified as deserving of some effort to improve, and then everybody can talk about this.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Chairman, I had a couple of questions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER BELL: One first is -- and thank you. One first, I think it's great work. I wanted to comment on it because, in part, I do this for a living, as well. And so the idea and the follow-up in terms of having focus groups, I think, one, that's a great initiative because you can't always get enough just from the quantitative side because there are things that people either want to say, don't want to say, don't know how to write down, unwilling to write down, trying to figure out if you're tracking it, you know, and they have to have an environment where they feel safe to deliver a clearer explanation and sometimes the easiest way that's done is talking. Especially if you provide them the environment.

And also you mentioned action planning, which, you know, that's part of a sales pitch. So it's -- you know, you're trying to get people to buy in that you're doing the right thing; but overall, when we talk about the scores, you know, in the world I come from, you guys are doing satisfaction. We do a lot of alienation, which is the flip-side. But having said that, scores in this case where you have 70 percent or more, so to speak, we would start looking at those as that's where you're tipping the scale to being really very good. You're deal with minimal -- at 70 percent, you're dealing with minimal issues versus, you know, a lot of issues.

And so I just -- I ticked off a couple of things as we went through and just wanted to say I did have a question just on the change in the participation rate because it is trending down. And so, you know, what -- you know, just think about what we might need to do because over the past couple of years, it's gone from 82 to 72. And part of that could be the comment about people necessarily not believing that something is going to change.

DR. WHEELER: Exactly.

COMMISSIONER BELL: They may -- you know, they may choose to opt out. We don't want people opting out, but -- and where we are, we're right on that good to great line. Man, if we can get out of that good to being the great, that's -- you know, so that's a challenge to you.

The piece where we talk about engagement, that's wonderful. And the disengaged, we use a stair-step piece and one of the things it talks about being fully engaged. When you first hire someone, they are absolutely engaged. They want to be there; but somehow or another, within six months we can actually have a person go from fully engaged to -- from being 95 percent or engaged -- or how about this? When you make a hiring decision, 95 percent of the people you hire are fully engaged.

What does that mean? 5 percent you shouldn't have hired. Okay? That's what that means first. Then you go down six months later, depending on what their interaction is, in particularly with leadership, you have -- you might find yourself only 30 percent engaged. Well, we're much -- obviously, we're much better than that; but, you know, to go from engaged to disengaged, you know, some people may want to quit. The only thing worse than people who quit and leave, are people who quit and stay.

DR. WHEELER: Right.

COMMISSIONER BELL: All right? So, you know, you're trying to find a way through that. And I guess lastly, I like all the categories and the -- your -- in particular, the -- you had the trust slide. For me, trust is -- there are two words I like: Creditability and trust. Credibility is people simply always believing -- they have an objective belief about whether or not you're doing what you say you're doing. Trust is also the emotional component of how they also react to your credibility.

DR. WHEELER: Right.

COMMISSIONER BELL: So they may -- you may have credibility, but you may not always have trust because people didn't exactly like it. I'm not sure if that's the standard you used. But this is really, in my opinion, really good work. Great platform for opportunity. I'm glad to hear that you also have it segmented --

DR. WHEELER: Yes.

COMMISSIONER BELL: -- by workgroup because that also gives you an opportunity not to pick on people, but it's an opportunity to help folks out.

DR. WHEELER: Right.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Especially in leadership if we're a little bit -- we're not perfect. So if we're a little bit off --

DR. WHEELER: Right.

COMMISSIONER BELL: -- we can all use calibration periodically, so.

DR. WHEELER: I think you hit several of the challenges that we faced with moving forward with focus groups, and that's why Matt here was chosen. He's really likable. He's very sincere, and he sincerely cares about our employees being part of the training and O.D. team. So getting out there and speaking with those groups face to face, we had to -- we had to make sure there was no management personnel conducting those focus groups because I knew from doing this in my experience with it, is getting them to talk is going to take you half of the time you have scheduled and just to trust you and what have we done with this in the past and we had a history of not doing so much with it in the past.

So how is a focus group going to help? And so we're asking them to trust us one more time, and we're going to work on these concerns we have.

MR. KENNEDY: To follow up on that, the worst thing that we could do in this situation is to do nothing at all.

DR. WHEELER: Exactly.

MR. KENNEDY: People did trust us with their feelings and their insight about the place that they love to come and work, and it would be a disservice to them for us to not take some kind of action on that. It would only decrease our trust and our internal communication numbers in the future and increase dissatisfaction, and this Agency doesn't have room for dissatisfaction because of such a critical mission that we operate within.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Well, if I were walking into a client and they provided me these kind of numbers, I would -- I would -- the first thing I would do is just let out a sigh of relief, knowing that whatever I had to do next was going to be much easier than if you had to invert this glass. Okay? So it's not -- by no means am I saying that we're perfect or anything like that.

DR. WHEELER: Right, of course.

COMMISSIONER BELL: But it is nice that the people who work here have given you that much of a baseline opportunity to work with, and we should work as hard as we can to try to honor that. I'll put it that way.

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, sir.

DR. WHEELER: On our summary, it actually shows that of the 3,200 employees we have employed here, 2,085 employees responded to this SEE. So that's pretty incredible.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you very much for those comments, and I think we've now found something to give you to do. I'm not -- I'm not jesting. I mean, this one of the reasons the Governor made two fabulous choices here and I hope you will be available as a resource for us because you do have such a depth of background and understanding and this is a great way for us to get a great place even better.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Yes, sir.

DR. WHEELER: Yes.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: It's exciting. I'm excited, like you. It's just things where we can do something to help push those scores up in the lower areas, we're here to help. And thank you for the report. It's fascinating.

Does anybody else have a comment?

Okay. Well, I appreciate it. Thank you very much. And I, at this point, declare that have completed our business and adjourn us at 12:03 p.m.

(Commission Meeting Adjourns)

In official recognition of the adoption of this resolution in a lawfully called public meeting of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, we hereby affix our signatures this _____ day of ______________, ______.

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Ralph H. Duggins, Chairman

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S. Reed Morian, Vice-Chairman

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Arch "Beaver" Aplin, III, Member

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Oliver J. Bell, Member

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Anna B. Galo, Member

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Jeanne W. Latimer, Member

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James H. Lee, Member

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Dick Scott, Member

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Kelcy L. Warren, Member


C E R T I F I C A T E

STATE OF TEXAS ) COUNTY OF TRAVIS )

I, Paige S. Watts, Certified Shorthand Reporter in and for the State of Texas, do hereby certify that the above-mentioned matter occurred as hereinbefore set out.

I FURTHER CERTIFY THAT the proceedings of such were reported by me or under my supervision, later reduced to typewritten form under my supervision and control and that the foregoing pages are a full, true, and correct transcription of the original notes.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this Turn in date _____ day of ________________, ________.

___________________________________

Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: December 31, 2020

7010 Cool Canyon Cove

Round Rock, Texas 78681

(512)779-8320

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