Tom Salzer is the General Manager of the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District. In his nine years with the District, he has made a lasting impression on his staff, his Board of Directors, and on the very face of Clackamas County itself.
Salzer joined the Clackamas SWCD in 2010, coming at an important time of transition for the organization. The Board of Directors was looking for someone with a broad skill set and he was looking for a new challenge. “I like fixing things,” he notes, “and the manager position with the District provided me with lots of opportunities to excel.”
Strong Background in Science and Conservation
Salzer has a long and accomplished history of working for and with conservation districts, but started his career as a geologist working in the mining industry. This role gave him an opportunity to work throughout the Pacific Northwest, but also in Australia and Indonesia. He left the industry in 1992, determined to dedicate himself to protecting natural resources. That same year, his strong science background gained him a position as the District Manager of the Ferry Conservation District in Republic, WA where he worked from 1992 to 1997.
In 1997, Salzer joined the Washington State Conservation Commission as Dairy Nutrient Management Coordinator. Over the next 13 years he filled many roles including election and appointment officer, agency rules coordinator, and provided assistance to conservation district boards across the state.
He was especially adept at dealing with sensitive issues with boards and staff at the 45 districts throughout the state and provided board and staff trainings, and workshops. These years contributed greatly to his skill set and his development as a conscientious manager. “The best way to learn is to teach,” he says. “And there is no end to what we all need to learn.”
Achievements of Note
Salzer is slow to lay claim to the many achievements made over the past nine years under his management of the Clackamas SWCD. Instead, he focuses on the competencies of the Board of Directors and District Staff. “Our staff is incredible,” he says, “Driven by a real desire to do good. It’s who we are — good hearts, good minds, good values.” Salzer currently manages 16 staff and oversees a budget with revenues exceeding $2.4 million — a far cry from his first district manager position where he had just one, half-time support staff and a minuscule, grant-based budget.
When pressed, Salzer admits that beyond nurturing and supporting staff, he has been excited by some of the long-term investments the District has made in Clackamas County. “We established the first county-wide septic loan program in Oregon with funding from the Department of Environmental Quality. We also invest in those closest to the soil and water we protect by providing partnership support grants for watershed councils and farmers markets within Clackamas County.”
Another long-term investment of note is the recently acquired the Eagle Fern Community Forest. This 319-acre working forest will provide recreation, protect water quality and wildlife habitat, and produce revenue for conservation programs for many, many decades to come. “And then, of course, there’s the new permanent home for the District – the Conservation Resource Center in Beavercreek, OR, ” Salzer adds, “Many years in the development, this move will help the District provide better customer service and will ultimately cost less than leasing office space.”
Always leave the campsite better than you found it.
Always Learning, Always Serving
Over the years, Salzer has taken active part in conservation organizations, having served at various times as an Northeast Area Director for Washington Association of Conservation Districts and President of the Washington Association of District Employees. Most recently he has served as the Director for the Salem-Portland Metro Region for the Oregon Association of Conservation Districts and as the Pacific Region Director of the National Conservation District Employees Association.