The Association of Retired Conservationists was organized by a group of retirees from the Wisconsin Conservation Department in the 1960's. By the mid-1970's, the WCD had been combined with the Department of Resource Development to form the Department of Natural Resources, and the retirees group had grown significantly, met monthly for lunch and began inviting speakers to address the group on issues of interest to the members. Today, the organization has more than two hundred members.

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Laurel Steffes

I’ve been an ARC member since 2013. I joined right after retiring from DNR on 12-12-12 – what a date, huh?

I was raised in Wheaton, Illinois, moving to Sun Prairie with my family in my teens. I earned degrees in Journalism and Secondary Education from UW-Madison. I was one of the Daily Cardinal editors at the height of the war protest years (yes, THAT Daily Cardinal.) After writing an educational column syndicated in 26 daily Canadian newspapers and classroom educational materials for five years, I moved to the UW graduate school managing five scholarly journals.

I came to DNR on Halloween, 1977 as promotion and production manager for Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine. I worked my way through a number of information and education positions, eventually becoming director of the Bureau of Information and Education in 1995. The bureau went through several iterations, eventually aggregating agency I&E functions. I retired as Communications Director.

We added a sunroom to our house the year after we retired.

Over the years I found myself cloistered at Kemp Biological Station doing communication during spearfishing unrest, orchestrated events for spectacular land acquisitions (former DNR Real Estate Director, Dick Steffes, is my other half) and worked with staff from all agency programs on spills, fires, the discovery of CWD, and more.

I have had the good luck to serve all the DNR secretaries, save Lester Voigt. I lived through more than one reorganization. And I was so very lucky to serve with the warmest, most dedicated and talented colleagues one could hope for. These days, I have found a home volunteering at the Goodman Community Center Fritz Food Pantry. There I have found a whole new group of warm, talented and dedicated colleagues. I currently am serving as the Secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin Outdoor Communicators Association and am heading up that organization’s scholarship committee. I’m also working on my bucket travel list, having added Turkey, Egypt, Costa Rica, Peru and more recently.

At Sequoia National Park with our family.

We’ve also been traveling with our grandson exploring many beautiful national parks. And like the rest of you, I am plowing through updating our home and pitching decades worth of accumulations in the attic and basement.

I am very proud to say my three daughters have all chosen public service for their careers, with two sons in law also in public service. Growing up, we stressed what a privilege and reward it is to work on behalf of the public. Guess it stuck. I have two handsome grandsons and one perfect granddaughter, princess of our lives. We live in Madison with a grand old lady black lab, Molly, and a rescue Labradane, buddy, who doubles for a pony.

Love the clients and volunteers at the Fritz Food Pantry. I'm at 700 some hours now!

Past Member Profiles

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