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Clark Seely, Oregon's Associate State Forester, retires after 35-year career
Photo of Clark W. Seely, retiring Oregon Department of Forestry Associate State Forester
Clark W. Seely, retiring Associate State Forester
Contact: Rod Nichols: 503-945-7425
Attribution: Doug Decker
November 17, 2009
For Clark Seely, retiring this fall after a 35-year career with the Department of Forestry, his life as a forester has, ironically, not necessarily been all about trees.
"I didn’t come into the profession knowing that, but if I have had a learning moment over 35 years – that’s the learning," Seely says, reflecting on his career. "It is all about people and not necessarily about the trees. And looking back, that’s what has made it such a wonderful journey."
Seely, 55, has served as the Associate State Forester—the agency’s second-in-command—since 2004. Seely began his career as a forester trainee in Astoria and held field positions in all corners of the state, before rising to Protection from Fire Program Director, Assistant State Forester in the Administrative Services Division, and finally Associate State Forester. His replacement, Satish Upadhyay—a former budget analyst with the Oregon Department of Administrative Services—started in mid November.
Thoughtful, thorough and pragmatically optimistic, Seely has been universally regarded both inside and outside the department as one of the hardest working executives in Oregon state government, known for his careful planning and preparation, and his thoughtful, collaborative and organized approach to problem solving.
A native of Kansas City, Seely graduated from Oregon State University in 1977 with a degree in Forest Management. During his college years, he worked summers for the department in Astoria, Coos Bay and Grants Pass. His first permanent position was as a Forester 1 in The Dalles where he worked a unique job as both service forester and forest manager of the White River Wildlife Management Area.
During those early years, Seely excelled on the forestry side, but also found a passion for the people side of the business, where his relationship-building and managerial abilities delivered real results on the ground, and propelled him quickly into ever-increasing responsibility. In less than 10 years, Seely promoted from Unit Forester in La Grande to Assistant to the Area Director in Northwest Oregon, to Klamath-Lake District Forester and then to Manager of the Elliott State Forest in Coos Bay. Each of those assignments had its unique challenges and joys. What Seely remembers most is the people—earning their trust, recognizing their abilities, serving their needs—and the shared accomplishment that came from collaboration.
In La Grande, Seely built lasting working relationships with the U.S. Forest Service that led to development of the first interagency dispatch center in northeast Oregon. In Klamath Falls, Seely and his team coped with back-to-back challenging fire seasons. In Coos Bay, he led an effort that produced the first-ever federally approved Habitat Conservation Plan for state forests, seeking a workable balance between habitat protection and management activities.
In 1994, Seely promoted to the Protection from Fire Program Director in Salem, where he led development of first-of-its-kind landmark legislation—known as Senate Bill 360—and fire policy directed at improving conditions in the complex and high-risk wildland-urban interface.
Since joining the department’s executive team in 1999, Seely has been the driving force behind business improvement initiatives that use technology and best practices to improve business processes, and that make the department better able to serve the needs of constituents. He has also championed organizational development initiatives, including the department’s Succession Management Plan, a leadership development curricula that includes the Agency Leadership Program (ALP) and the Covey Seven Habits training, and institution of a concept referred to as "Shared Leadership" that promotes a collaborative work culture recognizing each employee’s contribution to the agency’s success. He has also been responsible for creating a quality assurance and internal audit function that helps the department implement transparency and accountability in all that it does.
In addition to his service to the Department of Forestry, Seely has been an elected and appointed leader at the local, statewide and national level for the Society of American Foresters (SAF), where he is a fellow and an SAF Certified Forester, and currently serves on the national board of directors.
"In the six years I've been here, Clark has been like a cornerstone to the Department," says State Forester Marvin Brown. "So many of the things we undertake start with his excellent work. The budget, our relationship with other agencies, mentoring new managers, building better planning, decision-making and business systems. Forestry wouldn't be near the agency it is without his contributions and we're all going to miss him sorely."
Through it all has been his kindness, and his always-on-target advice and direction.
"I have been incredibly blessed," Seely says, thinking back over the last 35 years. "What I’ve tried to do is turn that around and give back to the organization and ask myself ‘what can I do today to help us be a better organization?’ When I look back, I hope I have contributed to the people side of the equation and our ability to be an effective organization through our employees."
Without a doubt, as the agency says farewell and thanks to one of its most respected leaders, that will be one of Seely’s lasting legacies.
Seely and his wife Adenia live in Salem, and are the parents of two college-age sons, Paul and Matthew.
[High-resolution portrait photo available on request]