Conservation Legend: Jim Leach
|Jim Leach is surrounded by family and friends at his retirement reception.
Jim “Tree” Leach, cost share and finance director, retired after 33 years of service to the state. In that time, Jim wore many hats at the Commission and was instrumental in shaping the Water Quality Division from a scruffy five-person underdog to the agency’s largest division and a national leader in effectively and efficiently attracting and utilizing federal funds. Shanon Phillips, water quality division director, described Jim as “the consummate team player”—a true conservation legend.
A renaissance man of water quality, Jim worked as a water quality monitoring specialist, data coordinator, assistant division director, acting division director, and cost share and finance director over the course of his career.
John Hassell, former water quality division director, recalled being with Mason Mungle, former executive director, and Jim in 1987 when Congress approved Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. “We knew that we were in the right place at the right time,” Hassell said.
Section 319 provides grant money to support a wide variety of activities dedicated to the management of nonpoint source pollution. Jim developed a system to track required matching contributions to federal funds which has been recognized by EPA as one of the best in the nation.
Other initiatives Jim helped start include:
- small lakes sampling program
- Battle Branch monitoring and implementation program
- the event flow monitoring program which later developed into the statewide monitoring program
- numerous priority watershed programs
- the original state cost share program
Of course, Jim is a legend for being more than just creative and hardworking—facing both opposition and opportunity with a smile—Jim was a friend. During his retirement reception on May 7, 2014, the most commonly told story about Jim was his habit of walking through the office in the morning and individually greeting each person. He made everyone he met feel welcome, and made coming to the Conservation Commission in the morning just that much better.
Enjoy your retirement, Jim. We’ll miss ya!