An opening was created in southwest Ohio following the promotion of Todd Haines, former ODNR Division of Wildlife District 5 Manager to Assistant Chief. A field of several experienced and qualified applicants were interviewed with Rick Rogers selected as the new District 5 Manager. I’ve known Rogers since before he became a Wildlife Officer as he once lived in the Jamestown area. I recently sat down with Rogers to review his career, talk about what makes him tick and the future in District 5.
Rogers’ Father, who was from England, grew up in South America where Roger’s was born. He is a first generation American immigrant and became a citizen at age 14. Rogers certainly had a variety of job and life experiences leading him to this point. He also had a very non-traditional route into hunting, fishing and trapping, as well as, becoming a Wildlife Officer. There were a number of pivotal events in his live. At age 11, he was rabbit hunting with a mentor when they were checked by the Montgomery County Wildlife Officer. Rogers was amazed at the event and asked the officer, “Do you get paid to talk to people about hunting?” The officer responded that indeed he does. Rogers was hooked and immediately thought that is what he wanted to do. However, there would be many detours before his young dream would become reality.
He later attended the Montgomery County Vocational School, now the Miami Valley Career Technology Center, taking environmental sciences. The studies included learning pond management along with hands-on work building a pond. His teacher, who was involved with fish management and had worked for the Division of Wildlife, introduced Rogers to commercial fish management. Rogers continues to raise fish, including yellow perch, bass and trout, as a hobby. Rogers notes, ” The Montgomery County Vocational school really saved me academically. The traditional classroom just didn’t work for me. The environmental sciences and hands-on experience really got my interest. ” After graduation in 1985, he went to work at Eastman Kodak. They had a plan that paid for college and he started majoring in Mechanical Engineering. It was another detour along life’s path. He adds, “I didn’t know what it took to become a wildlife officer. I saw barriers and didn’t see the career opportunity. I like working with my hands so I went for Mechanical Engineering.”
Fast forward to 1996 a friend, whom Rogers had mentored in trapping, became a wildlife officer. His friend told him that he was crazy for not following that dream of the 11-year youngster. Rogers had a full- time job, a daughter and was going to school. Life was already very busy and giving him another detour. Rogers explains, “I started volunteering at the wildlife office with the Osprey re-introduction program. I couldn’t take the more traditional seasonal position because I had a family to support.”
He finally followed his friend’s advice and the dream he had for so long. Rogers explains, “I knew deep inside that this is what I want to do. I went to Sinclair to explore my options. I was able to customize my degree to an Associate of Individual Study. It was a combined program of biology and law enforcement. They accepted my Mechanical Engineering credits as electives. I was going part-time but within about 18-months I had my degree. Finally I was ready for the next wildlife officer academy. I was accepted in 2001 for the academy. After graduation I was quickly assigned to Warren County. I served there for fourteen years when I was promoted to Wildlife Officer Supervisor for Unit C. I served in that position for five years until my recent promotion to District 5 Manager.”
Throughout life his passion has been in the outdoors. Whether it was that youngster hunting, fishing or trapping or as an adult. One constant companion has been his brother with whom last season was their forty-first trapping together. Today he is joined by his daughter and son. He has trained various bird dogs beginning with Springer Spaniels. Today he and his brother partner on Llewellin Setters and Labrador Retrievers. He has held a Master Falconer license and a class 2 waste water treatment license prior to becoming a Wildlife Officer.
All the life experiences have molded Rogers to who he is today. Starting with the environmental sciences and working through the Sinclair program gave him the foundation for his work as a Wildlife Officer and eventually as District Manager. He is an uniquely American success story from a non-conventional background. His wide variety of outdoor interests and experiences give him the ability to relate to the sportsmen and women he encounters through his work.
Rogers adds, “I think this has been a natural career growth path for me. I learned problem solving and communications skills early at the Kodak job. I was 33-years old when I became a Wildlife Officer. As an officer when talking to people how you articulate a situation is critical whether it is law enforcement or public education. All my prior experiences helped me be a better officer and have prepared me for the job today. I’ve been blessed to have a family that loves the outdoors and we share it together.”
He concludes, “District 5 has a huge variety of habitat and outdoor opportunities. There are seventeen counties from the Appalachian hills, the larger suburban counties and north to Grand Lake St. Marys. This also includes the Ohio River fish management. I’ve got a great stable staff. The only major opening is the Clark County Wildlife Officer. The Wildlife Supervisors and the Law Enforcement Supervisor are all experienced persons. The Wildlife Management Supervisors have a great deal of experience and are an important asset. Fish Management along with the Information and Education section also report to me. It is a diverse group with a lot of experienced and dedicated staff that make the daily functions work so well. It was an easy decision for me to apply for this position because there is such good leadership up through the ODNR Director. There are good people to help me succeed at all levels.”
The leadership torch has been passed to Rogers. While I’ve known Rogers for a number of years, I have a new appreciation for his background and who he really is. I believe he is ready for this job and a person who is in the right position at the right time. There are numerous challenges facing conservation, sportsmen and the Division of Wildlife. Rogers must be one of the leaders to meet those challenges with new ideas.. He brings a different perspective and background to the position. Hopefully his life experiences can be an asset, not only at the district level, but as he participates in the Division’s planning process. Overall, District 5 is well positioned to carry out the mission of the ODNR Division of Wildlife.
Outdoor writer and hunter education instructor Larry S. Moore is a long-time volunteer leader for Buckeye Firearms Foundation and winner of the 2005 USSA Patriot Award, the 2007 League of Ohio Sportsmen/Ohio Wildlife Federation Hunter Educator of the Year and the 2010 National Wild Turkey Federation/ Women in the Outdoors Hunter Education Instructor of the Year.