I do not know how many people would be interested in my profile, there are many other great people within ARC who have fascinating profiles. However, to start, as Lou Gehrig said, sometimes I feel like the luckiest person in the world.
You can take the kid out of Milwaukee, but you can’t take the Milwaukee out of the kid.
I was born and raised on the NW side of Milwaukee, there were 4 of us, “youse kids” as my Dad, Jim, used to refer to us. Jim Andryk was a draftsman, and my Mom, Kathleen, was a figure skating instructor who had all 4 of us on skates as soon as we could walk. She took us to most of the rinks in Milwaukee where she was teaching, where I excelled at getting in trouble with skates on, or with skates off. If there was any trouble I was usually in the middle of it, developing my legal counsel skills at a young age with the other guys, “remember if we get caught, deny everything!”.
At the age of 12 I obtained my first dream job as a newsy. I purchased a Milwaukee Journal paper route, and became a young businessman. Newspaper boys in Milwaukee purchased, owned and sold their paper routes, just like a business. Suddenly, I had extra money for cokes, hostess cherry pies, and suzy q’s, and for the purchase and sale of illegal fireworks.
My parents turned me onto natural resources, the fascination of wild animals, and the awesome beauty of Wisconsin. We camped, fished, hiked, and biked everywhere around the state of Wisconsin, camping in all the state and national forests, and most state parks by the time I graduated from John Marshall High School.
I enrolled in College at UW Stevens Point, UWSP, where being a beer drinker from Milwaukee, I fit in well. I made many lifelong friendships and learned how to hunt and appreciate hunting from these friends. At UWSP, I met my close lifelong friend and DNR colleague, Brian Buenzow, who had as much energy as me, and shared a passion with me for fun, mischief, hunting, fishing and the outdoors. Brian and I both managed to graduate from UWSP with degrees in wildlife management, and later were lucky enough to both work in the DNR wildlife management program at the same time.
Thinking big, I applied for graduate schools in western States, with mountains. I landed my next dream job at Montana State University in Bozeman, where I was lucky enough to secure a research assistantship to study bighorn sheep in the Bob Marshall Wilderness on the East Front of the Rockies. In the early 1980’s the Reagan Administration gave out grants to study and mitigate the impacts of oil and gas exploration on big game in the Bob Marshall, and my adviser received the grant for bighorn sheep. My thesis was about identifying and protecting the habitat and areas critical to the sheep, where exploration work needed to be avoided.
I graduated from MSU with a Master’s degree in Fish and Wildlife Management. My study area was the most spectacular place I had ever seen and I loved running around in those mountains chasing bighorns. However, as I said, you can’t take the Milwaukee out of the kid. I missed my family, friends and Wisconsin. I returned and lucked out to get a job working for Don Rusch on a radio telemetry study of ruffed grouse in Waushara and Marquette Counties, in the mid 1980’s when there were plenty of ruffed grouse and bobwhite quail there. The grouse and quail have since disappeared there, but now there are plenty of turkeys. Don was a UW Wildlife Professor and head of the UW Madison Wildlife Research Cooperative Unit, a great amazing man and a legend in the Wildlife Management Business.
I then was lucky enough to land my next dream job, in 1984, as a wildlife biologist for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, office in Odanah, WI. I still remember my first paycheck, I couldn’t believe they were actually paying me to be a full time wildlife biologist. Jon Gilbert and I were the early wildlife biologist hires of the Commission, tasked with developing a wildlife harvest monitoring and management program for the six Ojibwe bands in the Northern Wisconsin Ceded Territory. I was impressed by how upbeat and fun to work with the tribal members were, much different than the tough adversarial role they played with the State in negotiating their season frameworks during the mid 1980’s. It was then that I joined the team doing the statewide spring breeding waterfowl survey, spending two weeks each spring flying at low levels on randomly distributed transects across the state, counting and inventorying waterfowl and wetlands across the entire scenic landscape of Wisconsin. It was like some kind of Disney ride that I would have paid to do, but they were actually paying me to do it!
Thinking big again, my ambition got the best of me and I decided to attend the UW law school in Madison. A strange decision, but I was really impressed by the tribal and state attorneys involved in the Ojibwe off-reservation treaty rights litigation, and at the time I was thinking I could have a bigger impact on conservation with a law degree. Thus I attended law school and starting working in the Bureau of Wildlife Management in 1986 for tall Tom Hauge, who was the wildlife damage specialist then. I ended up working my last year in law school as the acting migratory bird specialist, filling in for John Wetzel, who left to become the Mississippi River Waterfowl Biologist. One of our accomplishments was dividing the State up into 5 goose hunting zones, Horicon, Pine Island, Collins, Mississippi River and the Exterior Zone (the rest of the state). The proposed outer space zone option failed for lack of support.
After I graduated from the UW-Madison law school in 1988, I landed my next dream job, comprehensive planning, budgeting and personnel hiring for the DNR Wildlife Program. My immediate supervisor was Harry Libby, who exhibited great patience overseeing a hyperactive Tim Andryk , bouncing off cubicle walls, who wanted to help change the wildlife management world, implementing Steve Miller’s vision and our comprehensive wildlife management plan. We were compiling biennial guidance on what wildlife management projects should be drafted and submitted, prioritizing requests, securing funding, approving funding of projects and coordinating the hiring of wildlife personnel. I was also able to continue getting paid for my annual spring thrill ride, the spring statewide waterfowl breeding survey.
In 1992, the Bureau of Legal Services needed to hire an attorney for the new Stewardship program and for additional legal service in the Bureau. Jim Christenson, Rick Prosise and Jim Kurtz, decided to hire me for my dream job of being the attorney for the Fisheries, and Wildlife Management Programs and the Stewardship grant programs, as well as other duties as assigned. Jim Christenson was my supervisor, he also made the mistake of hiring me as a part time law clerk while in Law School, so he should have known better. Jimmy was one of the nicest attorneys I’ve ever met, although it’s a low bar, pardon the pun. Rick Prosise was a really good lawyer, and Jim Kurtz, well you know Jim Kurtz, Vietnam Veteran and long-time Director of the Bureau of Legal Services. I was in the enviable position of providing counsel to all the great people in the Fisheries and Wildlife Management programs, and the Stewardship grant programs, as well as sometimes real estate, law enforcement and assorted environmental programs such as Green Tier. This also included spending time in the field hunting and fishing with my clients and friends, including my old college buddy Brian Buenzow. Jim Christenson did allow me one final year, my 9th, of my annual spring thrill ride, the two weeklong spring breeding waterfowl aerial survey.
A highlight of my career was the establishment of a mourning dove season in Wisconsin, the number one game bird in the US, in terms of bird numbers produced and taken by hunters. After almost 4 years of the hearings and a controversial rule process, the season rule was promulgated only to be challenged and held up in court over the issue of DNR’s authority to hold a season on doves. I was lucky enough to assist our Dept. of Justice Attorney, Phil Peterson, in arguing the case in Dane County Circuit Court, the Court of Appeals and the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The Supremes ruled 7-0 in favor of DNR’s authority, and the dove season has been successfully held for almost 20 years now, without the problems envisioned by the challengers, many of which do not even realize we have a dove season.
During this period in Legal Services I was fortunate enough to have a family. I was lucky enough to meet Kim in 1988, we married in 1991, went to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, (Canada side, Quetico) for our honeymoon, (we still vacation there), and then went on the most rewarding adventure in raising our children, Brian and Samantha. Brian is an engineer for Sierra Aerospace, under contract with NASA to do engineering for the International Space Station and in building Dreamchaser, NASA’s upcoming space shuttle. Samantha is in medical school in Indianapolis, going into significant debt so she can become a Doctor. Obviously, both kids are smarter than me, but that’s a low bar, pardon that pun again! When our daughter was 4yrs old, she came up to me and said, “Daddy I know what you do, you’re a liar! I replied, “No Sammy I’m a lawyer”. She gave me a puzzled look and replied, “That’s what I said”. After sharing that story with some DNR folks, many of my Fisheries and Wildlife Clients began referring to me as their “Liar”. After 20 years of being counsel for Fisheries, Wildlife and Stewardship.
I was promoted to Legal Bureau Director, Chief Counsel in the Cathy Stepp Administration, in 2012. My boss was Deputy Secretary Matt Moroney. He preached follow the law, use common sense and sound science. He was sincere about that, and supported Legal Services in pursuit of those goals. It was a hectic work environment, but most rewarding was improving legal service and counsel to our client programs and hiring talented lawyers paralegals and staff, that were more talented than me, again, a low bar. After 4 years at Jim Kurtz’s old desk, ETF made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. The state will actually pay you this amount each month, if you stop going to work at GEF 2. Now that really is a dream job, which I began in 2016!
As my fellow DNR retiree, Brian Buenzow says, we thought we were going to UW Stevens Point to get a job with the DNR, but we were really trying to get into the great Wisconsin Retirement system. DNR retirement is truly the dream job. During retirement, I have been trying to give back, as it is still rewarding to serve. Governor Walker appointed me to the Wisconsin Wetland Council for 2 years and later Governor Evers appointed me to yhe Council for an additional 6 years. We work on improving the wetland mitigation program, restoring wetlands as compensation for permitted loss and at a greater rate than permitted wetland loss, as well as other wetland restoration, regulation and permitting issues. I also work part time for Ducks Unlimited and am a member of the Friends of the Conservation Congress, the group that handles the Congress fund raising and conservation education scholarships. I do pro bono legal work for Legal Action of Wisconsin, representing low income clients in various legal disputes. My remaining free time includes as much hunting and fishing as possible as well as spending time with great family and great friends. And there’s ARC, in how many organizations are the retiree’s organized and getting together like we do? It shows that at DNR we are family, and many of us were fortunate enough to be part of the family when Buzz Besadny was the head. Like I said I have been truly blessed, and sometimes feel like the luckiest guy in the world!