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Debbie McNeil

DNR At Work

Debbie McNeil, an administrative specialist at Tuckahoe State Park in Ridgely, has a new claim to fame: She was recently named DNR's 2005 Employee of the Year. After 20 years with the agency, she was selected from a group of 25 exceptional nominees in recognition of the immeasurable support and expertise she provides to both the Tuckahoe Complex and Wye Island NRMA.

Her colleagues say she is a consummate park professional who goes the extra mile for customers and staff. Last year Debbie coordinated a number of highly successful events: The annual Easter Egg Hunt attracted nearly 1,000 people; the Tuckahoe Triathalon enjoyed a near record number of participants; the annual Fall Fest at Martinak State Park filled the park to capacity; and Santa's Magic Workshop generated canned goods and donations for a local food bank.

Debbie began working for DNR in 1986 as an assistant in the park's arboretum (now Adkin's Arboretum). Born in Easton, she lives in Greensboro with her husband, Shane, and three daughters -- Amber, Tiffani and Ciera. When not busy doing all the things that make for a DNR Employee of the Year, Debbie enjoys gardening and spending time with her family at the beach.

What is the nature of your responsibilities with the Park Service?
Well, it's a pretty long - and diverse - list! I am currently acting PSA, and manage our seasonal naturalists and maintenance personnel. I provide naturalist and interpretive programs to park visitors. I work duty shifts to open and close the park and satellite facilities, schedule and implement all major events for the Complex, and handle budgeting and procurement. I also assist the park manager in scheduling staff, assigning tasks and prioritizing project lists, and Act as the park contact in the manager's absence. Let's just say I'm never bored!

How does it feel to be DNR's Employee of the Year?
It was such a huge shock. To be nominated among such a great group of people was an honor in itself, then to have won... It blew me away! This award is definitely a reflection on the entire staff here at the Tuckahoe Complex. I work with wonderful hardworking, truly dedicated people.

What do you find most special about Tuckahoe State Park?
I love it when we have a returning visitor and they have a story about how we, the staff, made their trip memorable. It is very fulfilling to know you were a part of making their visit special.

What is the most important point you would try to relate to the general public about preserving our state's resources?
Teaching visitors the Leave No Trace ethics so that our resources are protected and preserved for the future.

What are your greatest concerns regarding the future of Maryland's natural resources?
With the immediate accessibility of today's technology, it frightens me to think our children do not get outdoors enough to enjoy and educate themselves about their environment. Children today seem to spend a lot of time on computers, cell phones and in front of the television. I would encourage parents to spend more time outdoors with their children so that they could acquire a love - or at least a respect - for their environment.

Your favorite spot - the one you go to "to get away from it all?"
The beach - you know, dow-ny o-shun.

What is the last book you read?
I am currently reading Chesapeake, by James A. Michener.

What are the projects, experiences or accomplishments here at DNR that are the most memorable, or from which you take the most pride?
Tuckahoe has grown tremendously over the last 10 years. We've built a recycled tire playground and a pavilion at our lake area that is extremely popular and draws an enormous amount of visitors. We have a fleet of canoes, kayaks and paddleboats that we rent out every weekend. Our Challenge Course is so popular that we often have to turn groups away. The Nature Center at Martinak State Park has been renovated and is beautiful with its 800-gallon aquarium, murals and new sound system. John Ohler, the park manager, has overseen so many improvements to the Tuckahoe Complex they are too numerous to list. I have great respect and admiration for John, as well as the entire park staff, who have assisted to make these improvements to the Complex.

Any last thoughts, ideas or comments you'd like to include?
I've truly been blessed to have met and worked with the most incredible bunch of people during my past 20 years with the Maryland Park Service. Almost everyone I have worked with, I consider my friend. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Park Service and look forward to many more enjoyable years.
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