OLYMPIA—Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Dr. Jeff Koenings today announced the appointment of four new top managers as part of an ongoing initiative to improve the agency's ability to meet the scientific, fiscal and policy level challenges that lay before it.
Lew Atkins, a 32-year veteran of the department, was appointed assistant director for the Fish Program, while Greg Hueckel, a 20-year veteran, was selected to head the agency's Habitat Program. Jim Lux, who previously worked for the state House of Representatives and Office of Financial Management for 14 years before joining WDFW in 1997, was named assistant director for Business Services.
Steve Keller, who came to the department in 1974, was appointed regional director for the department's Coastal Region, which includes the South Sound, Hood Canal and coastal counties.
"With the selection of these four outstanding individuals, I'm confident that the Department of Fish and Wildlife has assembled a first-rate management team capable of confronting and successfully addressing the difficult and complex issues facing us as we head into the next century," Koenings said.
"Their excellent management skills, innovative leadership qualities and natural resource experience will enable them-and the department as a whole-to succeed," he added. "All four have been instrumental in recent months in helping the department through a critical time."
Koenings, who was named WDFW director in January, was referring to the budget shortfall last year which resulted in employee layoffs and other cutbacks.
The appointments are part of an ongoing initiative by Koenings to strengthen the department's ability to provide the highest caliber natural resource management.
In July, Koenings announced the creation of three new chief scientist positions for the Fish, Wildlife and Habitat programs. The new positions are aimed at improving the department's ability to coordinate and focus research activities taking place within the agency and make sure they meet the highest scientific criteria.
"Science has been–and will continue to be–our Job One," said Koenings, a fisheries scientist. "Particularly as we move forward in coming years to rebuild those fish and wildlife species that are in trouble, and ensure sound stewardship practices are put in place. This department will be relied upon to provide the best, most comprehensive science available. These key scientists will provide a crucial role in overseeing this effort."
In addition to the key scientist positions, Koenings next created an Intergovernmental Policy Group to take the lead in developing policies between the department and the tribes, the federal government, and state and local governments. Formation of the group is expected to improve intergovernmental communications and relationships, and provide better policy coordination within the department.
Since his appointment, Koenings also has initiated efforts to improve the agency's business practices, expand supervisory and employee training programs and strengthen legislative and constituent relationships.
"We have accomplished some of our immediate goals in the business service area," Koenings added. "The biggest success was finishing the past budget cycle in the black and not having to be encumbered by a $3.5 million loan from the Legislature. Now we can look forward, not backward."
Koenings has also signed both agency and director performance agreements with the Governor's Office and the Fish and Wildlife Commission, the nine-member citizen panel which oversees the department. The first agreement, which other state agencies also have completed with the governor, identifies key agency performance goals for next year. The second clearly defines the commission's expectations of the director.
As part of his effort to involve employees in decision-making processes, Koenings last spring established Directors' Advisory Committees. The committees, comprised of WDFW employees from across the state, reviewed department operations and organizational structures, and then made recommendations on how to improve the department. Fifty of those recommendations are being implemented by the agency.
More recently, Koenings initiated an employee opinion survey on various topics ranging from customer service to job satisfaction. The survey, developed by the state Department of Personnel and used by numerous state agencies, is now under way. It will serve as a baseline for another survey to be repeated 18 months from now at the end of the current biennium.
"One of my chief goals is to maintain constant communications between employees and myself, and solicit their feedback on where they think we are succeeding -and where we may be falling short," Koenings said. "I believe this give- and-take is essential if the department is going to succeed."
Following is some brief biographical information on the new appointments:
- Lew Atkins, Assistant Director, Fish Program, has been with the department since 1967. He has demonstrated an ability to establish and accomplish goals and objectives in progressively responsible management positions. He has a proven ability to work collaboratively and cooperatively with internal and external stakeholders, facilitating a team approach to problem solving. Atkins is viewed as a leader in strategic planning and budget matters, and successfully participated in the Career Executive Program administered by the state Department of Personnel.
- Greg Hueckel, Assistant Director, Habitat Program, began his career with the department in 1979 after completing a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Science degree from the University of Washington. He has completed the 300-hour Career Executive Program. Hueckel spent his first 11 years as a biologist before moving on to a series of progressively responsible management positions. He has a background in both marine and terrestrial ecology.
- Jim Lux, Assistant Director, Business Services, spent more than 14 years working for the House of Representatives in a variety of leadership positions, including Staff Coordinator, Senior Staff Analyst and Task Force Director. Prior to his work with the Legislature, he spent nine years with the Office of Financial Management as a fiscal analyst preparing capital and operating budgets for state agencies. He has served as WDFW comptroller since fall, 1997, and was key in assisting the department address its recent budget deficit.
- Steve Keller, Regional Director, Coastal Region, has a Bachelor of Science degree in fisheries and over 25 years of fish and wildlife management. During his career, he has made significant contributions to the protection and rehabilitation of fish and wildlife habitats at the local, state and federal levels. As his career has progressed from field biologist to manager and planner, he has become recognized as an individual who can mediate disputes and resolve complex resource problems.
Koenings stressed that "with these appointments and others that I have made, I now have the management team in place that I believe will restore the public's confidence in this agency's ability to provide the biologically sound stewardship for fish and wildlife resources they expect and are entitled to."