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The Parks and Wildlife Watch Austin It’s hard, when you’re reporting on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, to avoid thinking of yourself as some sort of apprentice China watcher. Now and then an announcement floats to the surface; there are exiles to talk to; rumors get out; there’s a feeling that something is going on. But you find yourself wondering what’s underneath the surface, and what its relation to the surface is. Maybe it’s just romanticism, but they seem so . . . so inscrutable over there. Now you take this reorganization that is apparently going on. Try it in reverse chronological order. Jim Archer, director of personnel management, resigned on Aug. 21. His resignation was not announced by the department, and none of the relevant desks Administration, Executive Director or Information Director cared to comment. Bob Bradley, director of administration and Archer’s immediate superior, went so far as to say he didn’t know if Archer had a choice of quitting or being fired, but no one else was even that venturesome. About a week before Archer’s departure, Executive Director Clayton Garrison ordered an administrative reshuffling . of statewide operations. The old line-up went like this: an infield of six divisions with their respective directors \(Ron Jones, Planning; Roy Huffman, Current Operations; John Macklin, Personnel and Administration; Richard McCune, Information; S. W. Kendrick, Support Services; Clayton Garrison, Finance and regional directors. Now there are no regional directors, and the infield positions have new names as well as new players: Paul Schlimper at Parks, Robert Kemp at Fish and Wildlife, J. E. Dickinson at Finance, Bob Bradley at Administration, Clayton Rutter at Engineering and Stetson Reed at Enforcement. There would have been wholesale personnel changes at the directorate level anyway. Immediately after Gen. James Cross was fired as executive director, Huffman resigned, saying, “I felt if Mr. Cross couldn’t satisfy this commission, I couldn’t either.” Jones followed him closely, also citing Cross’ firing as a reason. And Macklin was dismissed two weeks later, after refusing to resign voluntarily. He said his “admiration” for Cross probably “Had an effect on my security.” Cross was fired by the commission on July 21. Commission Chairman Jack Stone informed him of the decision and told him there was nothing personal intended. Cross has since said that there were several “strong wills” on the commission, and that his constant effort to exclude political considerations from department operations was a factor in an “erosion of support” for him. BACK TO THE China analogy: sinologists are fond of making a distinction between differences over ideology and plain old power struggles, and they argue over which are more important. A Parks and Wildlife watcher would probably call Cross’ firing a power struggle. Apparently there were no major disputes involved, only a long series of miffs. Many of them centered on personnel decisions. The Parks and Wildlife Commission Creation Act gives a good idea of the possibilities of friction: “The executive director shall serve at the will of the Parks and Wildlife Commission. All other employees shall serve at the will of the executive director.” In other words, if a commission member, or anyone else, wants to influence hiring or firing in the department, the influence has to flow through the executive director. Cross and other sources at the department have said that in the 15 months he was director there was no such flow. A merit system for evaluating personnel was put into effect \(a scant 10 One speculation has been that Cross was the commission’s target only because he was in the way of changes at unidentified “lower levels.” If that’s true, it might be hard to keep track of the moves. With the continuous shuffle of personnel in the Austin offices of the department, a purge would have to have mammoth proportions to register as a new development. One source estimated that the employees who have resigned in the last four years represent 400 years of Parks and Wildlife experience. The dismissal of the regional directors is also a puzzle. At first glance it looks like a move to centralize power in Austin. But the ability to coordinate the various field operations from the central office won’t be helped by splitting up operations control among three divisions. The net effect may be much greater autonomy for people in the field. Or, as an informant put it, “Nobody here is going to know what the hell they’re doing out there. Nobody could it’s just not possible from here.” A PARKS AND Wildlife watcher can’t resist wondering what that reorganization at the divisional level means. Finance is still Finance, of course, and Administration is only Administration with Personnel moved out of the foreground. Engineering is now a separate division, along with Parks and Fish and Wildlife. Garrison has said the new chart represents a “move to get back to the basic responsibilities of the department,” which apparently means an emphasis on these three areas. That implies a de-emphasizing of something, and the Planning Division has been de-emphasized right out of existence. The division was responsible for producing a publication called “Pathways and Paddle ways,” which recommended acquisition of an old railroad right-of-way near San Antonio to provide a hiking trail. That plan got as far as a rejection \(on a tie \(Obs., The division was also in charge of developing the “State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.” There’s a curious paragraph in the General Appropriations Bill relative to that plan, providing that no expenditures may be made to update it without prior written approval of the governor. That restriction is a result of the strings attached to federal grants to the state. A comprehensive plan is required, and the governor gets involved because he is technically the chief liaison officer between state and federal governments. Of course, he appoints someone from the department to advise him and act in that capacity: and influence over the expenditure of federal funds makes the post of liaison officer a very important one. Pearce Johnson held it for a while, and used it to block purchase of land on Mustang Island for 20 months. Cross was liaison officer while he was executive director, and he kept in close touch with Ron Jones on matters of comprehensive planning. Upwards of $300,000 have been spent on Texas’ comprehensive plan so far, and it isn’t finished yet. Mostly that’s because of constant wrangling over the thing. Jones’ major interest was in setting up a board on the environment within the Parks and Wildlife Department, and his concern with ecology got involved in the planning fight as well. Ron Jones said at the time he retired that “Mr. Pearce Johnson at numerous commission meetings said we were devoting too much of our resources to planning.” “Planning” begins to sound like a euphemism after a while, a polite way of referring to the possibility of a department that would serve as an advocate of public interest. If there are real conflicts of ideology in the department, the issue of “planning” is one of them. THERE’S A brand new division that may be another indicator of trends in October 6, 1972 9