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State Jobs in Rural Places

worklifeELEVATED

Interview featuring State of Utah Employee Walt Maldonado with the
Department of Natural Resources

By: Angela Kula 

When it comes to State of Utah employment, most people think that these jobs are only in the State’s capitol, Salt Lake City. While that is true for a majority of State jobs, the State is also a source of employment in the rural regions of Utah.

In Green River, a town of approximately 949 residents, there are not many jobs available unless a
 person is willing to commute to surrounding areas. The job market consists mainly of restaurant,hospitality, and convenient store employment. However, Walt Maldundo, a resident of Green River for 50 years, has found a job with the State that he enjoys and it doesn’t require a long commute. In Walt’s interview, he discusses his job, how he came to find it, and how it contributes to his quality of work life.

Walt Maldonado

Walt Maldonado

WE: What is your title and job description?

WM: I am a Service Coordinator/Walk-in Access Manager/Wildlife Technician for the Department of Natural Resources. I also assist the Wildlife Biologists as needed. I pay land owners to open up their property for hunting and fishing. I also do wildlife depredation work needed for nuisance animals such as bears, lions, elk, or deer. For years, we had no divisional wildlife presence here and since they hired me, a lot of the poaching phone calls have pretty much been eliminated. We’re kind of stuck right out here in the middle, so detached from the rest of Emery County and rest of anywhere else really.

WE: How long have you worked for DNR?

WM: Four years.

WE: Have you ever worked in the private sector?

WM: Yes. When I got out of high school, I wanted to be a Game Warden, but I didn’t have the resources to go to school, so I changed my mind and went to be a uranium miner. I did that for six years.

WE: How did you come to work for the State?

WM: The uranium mines shut down and the Green River Army Missile Base shut down. Everything shut down. I just had my first child and a job opened with the State for an equipment operator with UDOT. I was a skilled operator, so I applied thinking that it would be a good temporary gig.The benefits were good, but the pay wasn’t ideal. I worked for UDOT full-time and had an evening job hauling fuel every other day for a truck stop that’s here [in Green River]. My wife was a waitress at a truck stop restaurant and cleaned houses and apartments on the side. We did that for about seven years just to get by.

WE: How long did you work for UDOT?

WM: Twenty-seven years and I bought out my last three years for retirement.

WE: Why did you come back to work for the State after retirement?

WM: During my whole UDOT career I was really into fishing and wildlife. I was a semi-pro bass fisherman and competed in tournaments. For20 years I was a Utah Bass Federation Conservation Officer, a Utah Chucker Federation representative for the Southeast State, and I was a member of the Mule Deer Foundation and the Turkey Foundation. I was always busy volunteering and working on the conservation side of either fish or wildlife. In 1999, I was on both the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Fishery Commission and the Southeast Regional Advisory Council (RAC). On both jobs I listened to the public and got their input on what the Division was doing right or wrong. At one of the RAC meetings it was announced that this job [Volunteer Service Coordinator] was going to be available.The hiringmanager thought that I was way over qualified, but I told him that I was going to be retiring from UDOT and this was just what I needed. So, I applied and got the job.

WE: Since you live in a rural region of Utah, where would you see yourself working if not for the State?

WM: I would have most likely been in the private construction sector as an equipment operator. I probably would have been away from home all time.

WE: Do you feel that working for the State has offered you more work-life balance than the private
sector could offer?

WM: Yes, while working for UDOT all those years, I was able to be home. I didn’t have to miss my kids’ school stuff. So even though I didn’t make much, it was a plus. At that time, most everybody had to seek work elsewhere. Other than the few convenient stores, hotels and stuff, there aren’t quality jobs here.

WEHow common are full time, benefited jobs in the Green River area?

WM: There aren’t any other than the State Park, UDOT and my job with DNR. Most everybody that lives here has two or three jobs to make ends meet.

WE: What is your favorite part of your job?

WM: My favorite part is the interaction with customers. I have a knack for gab and can make people laugh. I am a customer too, so I’m also in their shoes and understand what they are telling me. I can let them vent. Then we can have a civil conversation, and I can explain what we [at DNR] are doing. I also like that I’m not stuck in one area; the whole Southeast region is my area. I get to do things with the biologists like flying in helicopters and counting the big horn sheep.

WE: What is your involvement with youth recreation in Green River?

WM: The Division’s goal for this year is recruitment and retention of youth and other people that have dropped out of the hunting scene. We are providing instruction, therefore enhancing our hunter education program.

WE: Is there a key message you would like to share?

WM: We support hunting and want to hear from the public. The public can contact us and we have our ears open. Pheasant hunting has pretty much been dead for 10 years and it’s been a huge drain on the division’s budget because people have quit buying hunting licenses. People that pheasant hunt, and hunt here in general, travel to this area and stay in the hotels. They eat in our diners and buy fuel. It’s a huge boost in the local economy.

The State of Utah looks out for its own by providing employment to all areas, rural as well as urban. In Green River, a place where the population is small and the jobs are few, the State does not offer jobs that people choose to settle for;  the State offers jobs for people to aspire to.  For more information about the work that the Utah Department of Natural Resources is doing, please visit them online at www.dnr.utah.gov.

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