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Early career choices reveal new commissioner's interest in wildlife

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Missourians seeking insights into the character of their newest Conservation Commission nominee need look no further than back issues of Missouri Conservationist magazine. This and other early evidence documents an abiding interest in fish and wildlife.

William F. "Chip" McGeehan was the author of an article titled "Scalely Story" in the July 1972 issue of the Conservation Department's magazine. A full-page photo of the future conservation commissioner holding a fish scale accompanied the article. The text explained how microscopic examination of fish scales helps fisheries biologists determine how to manage lakes and ponds.

McGeehan was qualified to write the article on account of his employment as a fisheries assistant for the Conservation Department. Although career changes eventually took the budding author far afield, he eventually came back to conservation in what he describes as "a lifelong dream come true."

Gov. Matt Blunt announced McGeehan's appointment July 11. If confirmed by the Missouri Senate, the Marshfield resident will replace Anita B. Gorman of Kansas City. His term will run until June 30, 2011.

McGeehan, 55, is a 1968 graduate of Jefferson City High School. He studied fisheries and wildlife management at the University of Missouri-Columbia, earning a bachelor of science degree in 1972. He subsequently took graduate courses at Southwest Missouri State University.

During his college summers, McGeehan worked for the Conservation Department as a fisheries assistant surveying fish populations in private ponds. In the winter, he worked at the Conservation Research Center in Columbia, preparing fish scales for analysis by research biologists.

McGeehan's career track switched to sales for several years. Later, he started a McDonald's restaurant franchise. His passion for conservation never waned, however.

Like many Missourians, his formative outdoor experiences consisted of hunting and fishing with his father.

"I got my first bow when I was about 9," he said, "and I had a single-barrel shotgun. I used to prowl the woods feeling like I was Daniel Boone."

McGeehan still is an avid bowhunter and angler. He continues to pursue his interest in wildlife management on a 1,000-acre ranch on the James River near Marshfield, where he runs 150 head of bison.

"Being chosen for this appointment is a lifelong dream come true," said McGeehan. "I don't know what my legacy will be, but I want to be a good steward to the land and give back more than I have received. I'm going to be the best commissioner I can be 24-7."

Missouri voters established the Conservation Commission with constitutional amendment through the initiative petition process in 1936. Under the provisions of Amendment 4, the governor appoints commissioners to six-year terms. No more than two commissioners may be from the same political party. The commission has exclusive authority for the control, management, restoration, conservation and regulation of the bird, fish, game, forestry and all wildlife resources of the state.

The other three current commissioners are: Lowell Mohler, Jefferson City, chairman; Stephen Bradford, Cape Girardeau, vice-chairman; and Cynthia Metcalfe, St. Louis, secretary.

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