McNew, White reflect upon careers at Department of Natural Resources

Marvin McNew (left) and Dennis White will retire from the Department of Natural Resources after 24 and 44 years of service respectively.
Marvin McNew (left) and Dennis White will retire from the Department of Natural Resources after 24 and 44 years of service respectively. Photo by Andre B. Laird.

Originally published Aug. 19, 2013.

As the sun sets on the careers of Department of Natural Resources employees Marvin McNew and Dennis White, there is much time for reflection.

McNew retires after almost 25 years with the DNR, where he currently serves as director of the Upper Wabash Interpretive Services.

White, property manager at Salamonie Lake and Salamonie State Forest, has been with the DNR for 44 years.

The road to his eventual career with the DNR was a long and winding one, McNew notes.

"Way back in high school we did career testing and my results indicated that I leaned towards a career in forestry," he says. "However, I was more inclined to sports and wanted to do physical education."

Instead, McNew's journey took him to the food service industry, where he worked for over 20 years, four of which saw him owning his own restaurant.

"When I had my restaurant in Flint, MI, I was approached by a few United Brethren pastors who were regulars," he says. "They suggested that I look into attending Huntington College."

With the intention of going into ministry, McNew says he moved his wife and four small children to Indiana.

"While I was at college I switched my major to recreational management," he adds. "That's what I got my degree in."

After a short stint as program coordinator for the Huntington Parks and Recreation Department, McNew says he soon found himself interviewing with a good friend for a position at the Salamonie Reservoir.

"I didn't know much about the job when Ginger Murphy hired me," he says. "But I got hired for two reasons; I was an Eagle Scout and I have the gift of gab."

Starting part time, McNew says he first headed up weekend programs until he was hired full time on April 10, 1989.

"Now my duties include overseeing special and school programs, the volunteer program and managing staff for five DNR properties," he states.

He adds that there are many stories that have impacted him over the years, including a homeless family that visited the Roush property for all his youth programs one summer.

"I don't know how they got by, but after he got a job, the dad came back to thank me for taking the time to spend with his kids," McNew says. "The next year after he got his tax refund, he came back and made a donation to the wildlife program."

He adds that the family would visit him every Christmas Eve with a gift - a small trinket.

"They came every year until those kids were out of high school," McNew says.

His career could not have been possible without the help of more than a few people, McNew adds.

"I've had a tremendous staff, who saw and helped me to fulfill the vision for the property," he says. "From Ginger, who took a chance on me; Teresa Rody, who has had my back to Dennis, who even as one of my supervisors, has allowed me to be myself with restrictions."

White says his career began at the Monroe Reservoir in 1969. His 44-year career has spanned the entire division of reservoir management from its inception.

"One of the high points of my career, is seeing the fruition of the construction of the Salamonie Interpretive Center," White says. "It took the program to a new level and allowed visitors the opportunity to see the property."

Tenant farming, a program where the reservoir leases some of its land to farmers, has also been a high point, he adds.

"Farmers agree to leave a portion of their crops in the field for the wildlife," White says. "The money raised from that helps to support our wildlife program."

During his time, White says he has been a part of programs to reintroduce wild turkey, Canadian geese and river otters to Salamonie - programs which have been very successful.

"We were one of a handful of release sites in Indiana for river otters," he says. "And that has been very successful."

Both men agree that in the midst of all they do, it is sometimes easy to forget how much the reservoir property, lake and interpretive center mean to the community.

"I had a unique experience where a camper came to the office to ask me to call for an ambulance for his mother who had passed while on the property," White says. "She knew she was dying and wanted to pass while spending time at the reservoir, something she and her family had enjoyed doing, surrounded by nature."

He adds that there is something special about the people who work with natural resources - something that sets the career apart from others.

"It has been a really good fit for me," White notes.
"Sometimes I feel like a proud teacher when one of our former employees goes on to another career field and is successful."

McNew says he won't stray far from the great outdoors.

"I plan to volunteer in any way I can, including guiding trail walks," he says. "I also want to get more involved in community activities."

On Saturday, Aug. 24, the careers of both McNew and White will be celebrated with an open house from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Salamonie Interpretive Center.

The open house will be held in Lost Bridge West State Recreation Area, off Ind.-5.

Complete caption: Marvin McNew (left) and Dennis White will retire from the Department of Natural Resources after 24 and 44 years of service respectively. McNew serves as Upper Wabash Interpretive Services director and White is the property manager for Salamonie Lake and Salamonie State Forest.