TPWD News Release — Jan. 30, 2006
AUSTIN, Texas — Grayson County Game Warden Jim Ballard was presented the prestigious Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ 2005 “Officer of the Year” award before Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioners Thursday.
Ballard, a 17-year veteran of TPWD’s law enforcement division, has been stationed on Lake Texoma his entire career.
The award is given annually to one game warden in each of SEAFWA’s 16 states and Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Ballard said he was honored to be selected for the award, which is voted on by the state’s regional and headquarters game warden commanders.
I love it,” Ballard said of his job. “It’s all I ever wanted to do, ever since I was a kid.”
Growing up on a cotton farm in Haskell County, Ballard said, he had plenty of opportunities to hunt and fish as a youngster, but not much opportunity to actually get on the water.
“I didn’t know how to drive a boat when they stationed me at Lake Texoma,” he said. “Now, if it had been a John Deere tractor, I’d have known how to drive it.”
Of course, after nearly two decades working on the 89,000-acre border lake, Ballard is intimately familiar with the operation of watercraft and coordinates a model Boating While Intoxicated prevention program in the area.
He also has investigated a number of high-profile poaching cases (Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, famed for its trophy deer, is in his patrol area), and on one memorable weekend took part in dispensing 967 citations to anglers taking advantage of a massive school of stripers below Lake Texoma’s spillway.
“I’ve had a unique place to work my whole career,” Ballard said. “I’m fortunate to have a lot of wildlife, and a lot of people too. You just get to see more.”
Maj. Butch Shoop, Ballard’s supervisor, agreed.
“He’s had the benefit of a busy station,” Shoop said. “But that’s not a benefit if you haven’t got a good work ethic. He has been at that busy station and he has adapted to whatever the department program has been important at the time.”
Shoop said Ballard’s strong suite is his people skills and cited the excellent relationship the TPWD officers have with other law enforcement agencies in the area as one example.
In his nomination of the game warden, Shoop also cited Ballard’s involvement in the local community, where he organizes youth hunting and fishing programs, sponsors Future Farmers of America projects at local schools and organized cook teams for local fairs and 4-H contests.
“I cannot say enough good stuff about Jim,” Shoop said. “There are a lot of good game wardens in my region and all across the state. But Jim’s consistent effort throughout the years makes him shine a little bit.”
Ballard said that doing the job he’s had his heart set on since childhood has its own rewards.
“You want to think you’ve made a difference out there, and I think we have,” he said. “Over the last few years we haven’t had any serious boating accidents or fatalities.”
Ballard was originally presented the award at the annual SEAFWA conference in St. Louis, Mo., in October, 2005.