Thom recalls that as soon as he laid eyes on the Okanogan, in the winter of 2000, he was intrigued. Some years later, while working in Olympia for the Department of Fish & Wildlife, he felt an inward thrill every time his assignments called him to the Okanogan. How can I get back there, he started to wonder.
In 2011, when the OLT was searching for an executive director, Thom was sorely tempted to apply, but the timing wasn’t right.
“I was still enjoying the challenges and striving to achieve the goals I had set for myself at WDFW.” So we know he is nothing if not dedicated. Fortunately for us, when we were looking for an executive director again, at the end of 2014, Thom was ready.
(He joined the team in January 2015.)
Thom earned a BS in Biology from the University of Wisconsin, in his hometown of La Crosse. Following graduation, he briefly worked as a biologist for Wisconsin’s DNR, studying fish populations in the Mississippi River.
Next he moved to Denver, Colorado, where he earned an MS in Education, Secondary Science from Metro University. It was during this time that he involved himself with real estate transactions, working as a “landman” for gas and oil companies. He researched titles, negotiated mineral rights and easements, then lead projects on the leased properties.
Thom expanded his “landman” repertoire by working as a right-of-way agent and project manager for a company installing fiber optic lines between Billings, Montana and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. This involved negotiating easements with hundreds of private landowners, as well as multiple government agencies.
Following the fiber-ops gig, Thom lived in Missoula where he worked for 13 years as the Lands Program Manager for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. This role is essentially equivalent to the OLT’s conservation director, but on a national scale; it includes the development and stewardship of conservation easements, coordinating with government agencies and other conservation groups, managing land staff, and a whole lot of grant writing and fundraising to sustain the program.
Before he found his way to the Okanogan, Thom supervised real estate acquisitions for Washington’s Department of Fish & Wildlife, from 2005-2014; developing, negotiating, closing, and assisting with a wide variety of land transactions throughout the state. In fact, he mentored the OLT throughout the development of the Scanlon Lake Conservation Easement (2014).
Throughout his years in conservation, Thom served on a variety of committees for the Land Trust Alliance, including the steering committee that developed accreditation Standards & Practices, and a panel that produced the LTA’s book Working Ranchland Conservation Easements.
The bottom line is: Thom knows his stuff; he arrived at the OLT with more than 20 years of experience in conservation and land transactions, project management, and partnering with diverse agencies and organizations. He is exceptionally well-prepared to work alongside our conservation director, and he is eager to challenge himself and our land trust to grow in new ways.
Like most everyone who gravitates to the Okanogan, Thom is an outdoor recreation enthusiast. His pastimes include fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, biking, sailing, and scuba diving. He also gets his kicks out of playing tennis and racquetball.
When he is in an intellectual or creative mood, Thom practices guitar, or studies a foreign language. He wants to learn how to speak Spanish, French, and Swedish. He enjoys opera, but he is allergic to dancing-- he does not want to learn how to tango.
When he just wants to kick back, Thom watches old movies on TV.
Thom’s dream vacation? A 21-day rafting adventure down the Grand Canyon. Close second: travel Morocco.
What’s funny is: Thom has survived an aerial dogfight, and he has summited Mount Kilimanjaro, but he turns into “Little Miss Muffet” in the presence of large spiders.