COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Approximately 500 Texas A&M Forest Service employees gathered today at the agency’s annual personnel meeting. The meeting was held at the Frank W. Mayborn Civic & Convention Center in Temple, Texas.

    Agrilife Vice Chancellor Dr. Patrick Stover and Deputy Vice Chancellor Dr. Susan Ballabina attended the meeting. “I’m here to help bridge together urban and rural programs so every team in the state knows and appreciates what we do,” said Stover.

    Local officials Bell County Fire Marshal Steven Casey, City of Temple Chief Fire Officer Mitchell Randles, City of Temple Assistant Chief Mark Spivey and Bell County Emergency Management Coordinator Michael Harmon also met with agency personnel and welcomed them to Temple. 

    Texas A&M Forest Service employees celebrated a successful year and recognized those who have distinguished themselves within the agency. The meeting provided an opportunity for employees who work across the state to come together to discuss new technology, challenges faced and future plans.

    State Forester Tom Boggus celebrated the agency’s success in the past year and looked toward the future. “We must not stay the same. With urbanization and so many people moving to Texas, we must look to what’s next,” he stated.

    Employees were recognized in the 2018 Service and Safety Awards for their years of service ranging from five to twenty-five years. Additional awards were issued to the following Texas A&M Forest Service employees who have made significant contributions to the agency’s efforts over the year:

    Director’s Award for Support Staff – Field

    Robert Edmonson, Biologist, Johnson City, Texas

    Robert Edmonson has served the agency with diligence, enthusiasm and selflessness for the past twenty-five years. He has excellent GIS and GPS skills and an exceedingly strong knowledge of technical forestry and forest health in the Texas Hill Country. Robert’s contributions to the Central Texas field programs have been vital, and he is a proven leader among Central Texas Staff. He also serves as a co-instructor for the TFS-ISA-T Oak Wilt Certification/Qualification course for ISA Certified Arborists and continues to better the agency.


    Director’s Award for Support Staff – Professional

    Rebekah Zehnder, Geospatial Analyst, College Station, Texas

    Rebekah Zehnder uses her broad expertise to enhance the work and communicate the value of the agency. She stepped up to perform complex Forest Inventory Analysis (FIA), which provided grounds to open a new sawmill in Lufkin that will help support forest owners for generations to come. Her ownership and redesign of the urban FIA application “My City’s Trees” serves as the national model. Zehnder leads the Technology and Implementation Task Force and she has played a major role in the Success to Significance initiative.

    Director’s Award for Support Staff – Office

    Amy Geppert, Administrative Associate, Austin, Texas

    Amy Geppert confidently goes beyond expectations in her service to the agency. Known for her immense dedication to her coworkers, her eagerness to learn more about forestry topics, and her kind and outgoing demeanor, Geppert takes the lead on developing educational materials, managing new social media channels, and making sure her coworkers have what they need to succeed. Geppert is eager to learn more and go out into the field, and she uses her “non-forester” perspective to successfully communicate the importance of the agency’s work with the public.


    Director’s Award for Technical Forestry

    Jason Ellis, District Forester, Jacksonville, Texas

    Jason Ellis embraces innovation, serves as a leader in the agency, and exhibits a passion for natural resource management in his stewardship of the I.D. Fairchild State Forest and other state lands. One of the first foresters to become a certified drone pilot, Ellis takes the lead on new initiatives and commits himself to excellence in technical forestry. He stands at the forefront of the shortleaf pine restoration initiative and has worked to sustain the population of the federally-listed endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker.


    D.A. “Andy” Anderson I&E Award

    John Warner, District Forester, Conroe, Texas

    John Warner expertly manages one of the most popular public landscapes in the state, W. G. Jones State Forest. He tirelessly pursues numerous opportunities to engage youth and professionals in conservation education and effectively communicates the many ways that trees and forests improve the lives of all Texans. Warner was instrumental in the installation of the Nature Explore Classroom in the Lone Star Health Center, and he is a steadfast leader for educational outreach programs like “Houston’s Backyard,” “Texas Amigos del Bosque,” and “Green Ambassadors.”


    Charles Krenek Award for Resource Specialist

    Kenneth Harrelson, Resource Specialist, Livingston, Texas

    Kenneth Harrelson serves as humble and dedicated leader within his district and region. An ISA Certified Arborist, Harrelson has excellent technical forestry skills that have allowed him to assist forest landowners, train new employees, write more than 26 forest stewardship plans, and assist the agency with projects that have bettered his district and the state. Commonly described as trustworthy, humble, devoted and loyal by his peers, Harrelson sets a great example for mentors across the region as the Lead Mentor for the Southern Region.


    Director’s Award for Team Effort – Outstanding Interdivisional Collaboration Team

    Smithville Taskforce

    Steven Moore, Daniel Lewis, Lori Hazel, Steve Willingham, Logan Bucknam, Colton Curles, Nathan Decker, Gil Demieville, Donnie Grauke, Luke Krischke, and Matthew Lore

    The Smithville Task Force has been working with Central Texas OPS and Water Resources & Ecosystem Services to coordinate larger-scale management work needed on the Schulze Tract, a 311-acre property in Bastrop County owned by Texas A&M Forest Service. By using in-house machinery, labor and expertise from within the agency, the team ensured that the work was accomplished at a low cost to the agency. The working relationship of the team embodies the true spirit of Texas A&M Forest Service as the team worked across boundaries and departments to accomplish tasks for the greater good of the agency and the people of Texas.




    Christi Powers, Texas A&M Forest Service, 979-324-0708,

    Texas A&M Forest Service Communications, 979-204-3202,