Conservation service loses longtime employee, gains two new staffers to carry on work

Long-time Linn County Conservation District Manager Karen Tuggle, from left, retires at the end of this month. Ryan Ferguson is a new conservationist and Stacy Reagan will take over Tuggle's duties. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)

MOUND CITY – The Linn County Conservation District office is in the midst of significant personnel changes brought on by the retirement of two U.S. Department of Agriculture conservationists. And now Karen Tuggle joins the ranks of retirees.

Now, with her replacement, Stacy Reagan, and conservationist Ryan Ferguson already on board, the agency has all but one position filled.

Tuggle has been the point person for the Linn Country Conservation District since she was hired in 1983, 38 years ago. During that time she has viewed thousands of conservation posters created by school children in the county.

She has organized dozens of Ag Days for fourth-graders. And she has listened to hundreds of speeches on conservation by high school students.

And that, she said, is what she’ll miss the most.

“I like to get out among the school age kids,” Tuggle said, adding she was disappointed that because of COVID-19 precautions, there were no Ag Days for the past two years.

“We hope to get it going next year,” she said.

She said Ag Days usually draw more than 120 fourth-graders from around the county. By the time volunteers and FFA members are added, the event can have about 200 people attend.

When she walks out of the door at office in Mound City for the final time as an employee at the end of September, Tuggle said she plans to take some time off and enjoy her grandchildren – and not stay involved with the conservation district, at least for now.

“I’m going to step away for awhile,” Tuggle said. “Then, if they need me, I’ll volunteer.”

In addition to being able to work in a job she finds “very satisfying,” Tuggle said one of the things she really liked about working at the conservation service was working with co-workers Rod Bollinger and Ron Briggs, both of whom she worked with for 25 years or more.

She is also glad that Reagan and Ferguson have been hired together as a replacement team. That still leaves one more position to fill.

“I feel really good about leaving,” Tuggle said. “Stacy (Reagan) will be excellent.”

Reagan’s roots go deep in Linn County. Although she has lived elsewhere for more than three decades, the Pleasanton High School graduate is glad to be near her family again.

She returns to the area after organizing training programs for a community college in northwest Arkansas. Although much of her work was administrative, it involved public relations and creating connections with the communities, much like what will be required of her now.

Reagan is still in the process of learning the details of the job since she began in mid-August, Tuggle said she is ready to take her post.

Ryan Ferguson, who started working at the agency July 6, grew up in Shawnee. After attending Kansas State University and earning a degree in agribusiness with a minor in agronomy, he went to work for the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in South Dakota focusing on soil conservation.

As a district conservationist in Linn County, Ferguson will help landowners and operators with conservation planning, finding resources for projects and offering technical assistance.

Projects for which he can provide expertise and offer cost-share resources include construction of terraces and waterways, wildlife conservation, and improving pasture quality.

He said that several of the focal points of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) are also very popular, including brush management, ponds and livestock waterers and rotational grazing.

“Our job is to help producers help the land,” he said.

Even for those who aren’t interested in cost-share programs, Ferguson said he can provide technical assistance free of charge to the landowners.

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