November is a month of giving thanks. Recently, I participated in the graduation ceremony of our newest conservation agent class and administered their oath of office. Fresh out of the academy with months of rigorous training, they’ve been tested on everything from the Wildlife Code to swift-water rescue. For nearly all, this is their dream job, and yet I know there are many new life lessons ahead as they begin their first assignment.
Several people offered words of wisdom for the new agents during the ceremony. Missouri Department of Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten shared inspiring insights from her years with the Missouri State Highway Patrol. A common theme was the role conservation agents play as ambassadors for the department and the state with every interaction they have with the public.
I shared the example of retired Conservation Agent Russ Shiflett, who once came across a father and son hunting on a conservation area. Both were disabled, and the son had just shot a deer. Without hesitation, Russ jumped in to help. He carried the son on his back, and together they tracked, located, and tagged the deer. He made the experience meaningful for this young man. Russ lived the definition of what it means to be a true ambassador.
As we ended the ceremony, I silently gave thanks for this new class, and wished for each of them a Russ Shiflett in their lives — a mentor and guide to share a few of those important life lessons along the way.
Sara Parker Pauley, Director
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