Published 6:06 pm Friday, April 7, 2023
By Brandon Herring
RALEIGH – North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler recently recognized employees in the Bertie County office of the North Carolina Forest Service. He honored them with the quarterly Accomplishment in Team Excellence Award during a presentation at the Troxler Agricultural Sciences Center in Raleigh.
That team includes county ranger Dave Hoffer, assistant county ranger Trent Munford, assistant county ranger Travis Ashley, and forest fire equipment operator Jack Keller.
“During several months last year, the Bertie County Forest Service was understaffed and faced with a challenging season with higher-than-normal fire danger and a challenging tree planting season,” Troxler said during the presentation. “During that time, the staff went above and beyond the standard normally expected of Forest Service employees.”
Hoffer, Munford, Ashley and Keller were involved in re-launching the annual Bertie County Landowner’s Association Meeting and their work to plan and execute the meeting was vital to the success of the event. Additionally, they provided extensive hours of on-call work for emergency response and extinguished all wildland fires quickly, which protected resources for the citizens of Bertie County.
The following list includes some of the specifics that D-7 district forester Mike Petruncio listed in his nomination of the team:
During a three-month period, the staff worked together to complete quality control inspections on 35 tree plans, and they measured 2,700 acres by hand-held GPS units for cost-share programs.
In that same period, the team responded to 19 wildfires totaling more than 200 acres. During one of these fires the Bertie staff played an integral role in restricting a large fire with very high fire intensity. It had grown from a small roadside fire to 40 acres within the first hour, and through their efforts, that fire never grew beyond 60 acres.
The team also implemented two new tracking processes to track tasks such as ongoing landowner projects. They started a brand-new way to track tasks electronically and created a staff calendar to maximize efficiency.
“These new ways of doing things have made efficient use of a valuable resource – time,” Troxler said. “We could all use more time, and their changes help them avoid wasted time.”
Petruncio said a big reason he wanted to nominate the team was because the employees were all new to the county when they were faced will the challenges of fires, forest management and other program areas.
“Bertie County is a very busy place with forestry activities,” Petruncio said. “Our team does a great job meeting with landowners and consultants to provide value-added customer service. I’m really glad the Team was recognized and had the opportunity to go to Raleigh and receive the award from Commissioner Troxler.”
While forest management is a key component of each N.C. Forest Service, it can be difficult work to handle during especially busy wildfire seasons, particularly with new staff. However, the Bertie County office took care of management cases, wildfires and several other tasks around the same time period. The team award for Hoffer, Munford, Ashley and Keller acknowledged that their hard work had not gone unnoticed.