For the U.S. space program, 1968 was a watershed year: Apollo 8 became the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon. On a more earthly plane, 1968 was the year a young Texan started his 50-year—and counting—career with the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB). Many things have changed in the five decades Don Brandenberger has served the State of Texas (see box below
), but his commitment to public service has never wavered.
“I like what I do and believe the work is important,” Brandenberger said. Historically, soil resources and water quality are “mainstays of civilization.” Lose these resources and things start to decline, he explained. “I really believe our state has the resources to keep the land productive far into the future. That’s what keeps me going every day: protecting the quality of our soil and water for future generations.”
As one of 10 field representatives for TSSWCB, Brandenberger logs about 3,000 miles monthly in his truck to support 21 soil and water conservation districts over 25 counties.
“I serve as a resource for local soil and water conservation districts, on state board programs, policies, rules and procedures. I support a variety of activities, including board elections, conservation activities, bookkeeping and audits, as well as conservation activities and events.”
One thing he doesn’t do is think about retiring. “I get up every morning ready to roll and I haven’t wanted to stop working.” His stamina is thanks, in part, to his good health. “I’m as healthy as a ‘Big Ox’!” he laughed, referencing the nickname his grandchildren gave him. Brandenberger and Alice, his wife of 53 years, are long-time participants in the Scott and White Health Plan and “are very happy with the benefits” the plan provides.
Loyalty is clearly important to Brandenberger. It’s a quality he hopes future stewards of Texas resources will embrace. “My advice to young people who are starting their careers is to find something they love and stay with it, because the rewards are worth it,” he said. “Their time on the job will be a benefit to their agency, and they will become knowledgeable about work they enjoy. That’s a good investment all around.”
Rolling with the changes
Don Brandenberger is the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board’s longest-serving field representative. With more than 50 years of service, he’d win awards for longevity in just about any state agency.
“My first day on the job was December 1, 1968,” Brandenberger said. “Back then, everything was done with a pencil and Big Chief tablet. We would write our field reports on paper forms, put them in a stamped envelope and mail them off every day to the central office.”
“If you were out on the road and needed to make a call, you’d have to find a phone booth somewhere and hope you had enough change. If you dialed the wrong number and were out of change, you were stuck.” Changes in technology have definitely improved the situation, he stated. Today, he files his daily reports electronically and people know they can easily reach him by cell phone, day or night.