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My Story

The Early Years

I was born and raised in the small town of Ponca City, Oklahoma.  I built my first potters wheel when I was twelve years old and still remember the day my dad came home with the ball bearings needed to make the wheel function. It was like Christmas day!.  I later attended the University of Oklahoma in Norman as a Classics Major but continued to gravitate to the ceramics lab. Deciding to take a break and “find myself”, I moved to Austin, Texas, where I attended art school at the University of Texas. Desiring to focus on clay, a production stoneware potter took me on as an apprentice.  I studied every aspect of running a production clay studio.

I learned the craft and when the time was right, I opened my own studio and developed my own work. My focus was exclusively Raku pottery inspired by the Japanese tradition that dates back to the 1500’s.

Fine craft was a natural fit for me.  I loved creating something new every day and found success selling my work in galleries in Houston and Dallas.

After several years, I went searching for adventure and more life experience.  I set my artwork aside and promised myself that one day I would return. I discovered rock and alpine climbing and those outdoor experiences led me to the next chapter in my life.

 


The Texas Parks and Wildlife Years

During that time, I became had become friends with a historic archaeologist and soon found myself working on his crew.  He was stabilizing the first brewery built in Texas built by a German stonemason. My career with Texas Parks and Wildlife thus began with me washing rocks on the tailgate of a pickup truck.  During that time the crew lived in State Parks, slept in tents, camped in beautiful settings, cooked communally, showered outdoors and laboredworked like dogs. I soon worked my way up the ranks into crew supervision.  I became a skilled stonemason and as a crew leader, I learned to motivate people, day after day to accomplish very challenging objectives under adverse conditions. It was four years of high adventure!.

(Above) Restoration of the brewery in beginning stages. New retaining wall nears completion.

(Above) Restoration at it’s conclusion. Both interior arches completed. My favorite part of the project.

(Above)  AsAbove) As it is today

(Above) Mid-Restoration, I am cutting and fitting stones for the interior doorway arch.  My experience building arched fire brick kilns for ceramics, made my first stone arch an easy transition.

(Above) Proud mason after the final setting of the stones for the completion of the arch.

At the conclusion of the brewery project came additional restoration opportunities with budgetary responsibilities to manage.  As an early adapter of personal computing, I was able to create spreadsheets and utilize other management tools to reinvent manual practices. I was given the opportunity to assist with reorganizing the Parks Department. I became the Fiscal Officer for the Public Lands (State Parks) with responsibilities for a $30 million annual operating budget and $50 million in construction budgets. The parks historically operated without regard to their revenue and when their funding was slashed, I was tasked with finding solutions.  My first was to build an entrepreneurial budgeting system that encouraged park management to operate in a more business-like manner and rewarded creative thinking. I toured the state selling the program to skeptical long-term state employees. Fortunately, it generated huge interest and enthusiasm. The program created $1 million in new revenue the first year. I then turned my attention to upgrading the customer management system. Typically, the customers’ first contact with state parks were are for camping reservations and a positive experience was important to ensure our park visitors would return.  Finally, a centralized reservation system was required to capture this information and carry it through to financial systems. Reservations were being done at each park, individually and . eEach park used a different system. The solution was to build a 40 seat call center that brought the Texas State Parks system up from the bottom 5% of state parks systems to a leadership position nationwide.

During that time, I discovered Metal-Art and developed my metal working skills. I learned advanced welding techniques and how to heat, twist and forge steel.

Above:  “Joy”, steel, (38”H X 28”W).

Above: Steel coffee table, (3/8” steel plate)

Above: “The Bum”, stee½” square stock l and shadows, ½” square stock, (28” H X 22”W)

 

Feeling my work at Parks and Wildlife was complete I looked for the next life challenge and opportunity. I had met two young computer geeks from who built reservation software and wanted to start a new business. Their goal was to provide reservation services for States and the federal government who did not want to run their own call centers.  After almost 15 years in state government I was offered me the opportunity to team up with them and I jumped at the chance.

ReserveAmerica and Beyond

As the Vice President of Operations I spent my first year writing responses to request for proposals from government entities.  We first won a ten-year contract for New York State and I relocated to upstate New York to build our operational base. We bought a 15,000 square foot, 1928 Elementary school building and transformed it into a state-of-the-art information center with a 120 seat call center and an interesting corporate image.

My office and my two partners…

We soon started capturing the market. California and Wisconsin required that we take their reservations in their state. Soon I was traveling coast to coast to setup and manage large call centers in three time zones.  We built the infra- structure for the state clients but had our eyes fixed on the “feds”. We won the National Recreation Reservation System (NRRS) advocated in Al Gore’s Reinventing Government. It combined the National Forest Service, US ARMY Corp of Engineers and BLM.  ByAt that point we had amassed 90% of the states and the federal government with centralized camping reservation system or services. As a result, we grew at double digit rates year in and year out. It was a boot strap effort that was a fascinating mix of government, the private sector and politics.

 

My partners were brilliant at leveraging the funding, client prospecting and all the software and systems. I managed the in-house telecommunications, data centers, client management and the huge employee base. During peak season we would ramp up to 1,200 employees.  Then Barry Diller and TicketMaster came along and . They bought our company, lock, stock and barrel. I continued on a consulting basis before taking my leave to enjoy my retirement from corporate America.

 

I bought an 1810 farmstead near Cambridge, NY.  During the rehabilitation of the farm, I also opened a coffee shop in nearby Glens Falls, NY.

View from my farm, upstate New York Ridge Street Coffee Company Inside the coffee shop.

But soon after, my aging parents needed my help so I relocated back to Oklahoma.  I stayed with them through my mother’s long struggle with Alzheimer’s and my father’s own subsequent health issues. I had the opportunity to redefine an adult relationship with my parents, which proved to be a wonderful blessing, and treasured experience.

I have continued to develop and explore my artwork during this period. My mother had taught oil painting most of my early life.  During her illness I ventured into painting for the first time.

(Above, Left to Right) “Kiss on the Neck” acrylic on canvas 18”W x 24”H. “The Glance” acrylic on canvas, 18’W X 24H. “Storm over Snake Head”, Digital Painting (Adobe Painter). “Sunset on Lake Saratoga” Digital Painting (Adobe Painter)

I also learned to design and make hand-made leather bags and built an online company to do so.

https://www.facebook.com/Tallgrass-BAGS-210696912332405/?ref=bookmarks

How do I classify my expertise and experience?  This narrative is a short overview drawn with a broad brush.  Each step involved learning and developing a wide range of skills and abilities.  I love the thrill of the start up. I am a leader. I am an innovator. I am a builder.  I am an artist. I love creating art, facilities and companies.

I now live in Delaware with my ever-patient wife, Nina.  Her encouragement and support is my foundation. I have returned to my roots in ceramics and after 40 years, I am back to working as a full time artist.  I feel I’ve come at home again.

 

 

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