By John Matonich
I always enjoy being able to sit with some folks and simply have a conversation. The topics typically vary from sports to politics to local gossip. The chatter is usually lighthearted, but can certainly turn serious from time to time. I am more of a fan of the lighthearted topics. I have spent a lot of my life in serious conversations and a change is always welcome.
One of my favorite spots to stop in is a little tavern not too far from my place. I know a lot of the folks who frequent the pub and they are just good people. One of the reasons I enjoy the place is that most of the time the conversation isn’t about the typical topics you might hear elsewhere. The folks there are usually yakking about hunting and fishing. Not only do I enjoy the outdoors as much as most, but I have been fortunate to serve on Michigan’s Natural Resources Commission (NRC) for the last seven years or so. The folks there know it and don’t mind ribbing me every now and then about the rules we have passed or are considering passing regarding fish and game in Michigan.
The ribbing doesn’t bother me as I know it is good-natured and I feel hearing resource users’ perspectives are very important for the NRC to help in our decision making process. We get letters, calls, emails and visits from sportsmen and women all over the state and to me; their input is an important part of the process. Sometimes passion can be misunderstood as anger, but I always remind myself that folks are simply trying to make sure we understand their position on an issue or the concerns they have.
Being a member of the NRC has been a very rewarding experience for me and I have even been more fortunate to currently be serving as the Commission’s chair and have for the last few years. Over my tenure on the NRC I have met some great folks who work for the MDNR and they have impressed me time and time again with their knowledge, regard and care of our state’s natural resources. There are certainly times when I may not agree with their thoughts, but it doesn’t diminish at all my respect for their abilities. Not everyone ever agrees on a topic, but that comes with the territory.
When my friends at the pub I frequent give me a little grief, they typically do it with a smile. I have had a number of them tell me how glad they are to have me in this spot. I would like to think it is because they know how much time I put into studying the issues to do what I think is best for the resource, but I really think they are happy because they don’t have to send a letter or an email about an issue, they simply have to wait for me to walk in and then the conversation begins.
And that’s the situation as I survey it …
After a 35-year career downstate amongst da trolls, during which he built a successful engineering and surveying business, John Matonich is back home in da U.P. His column will appear here occasionally, don’tcha know. His book “Surveyin’ Da Situation” is available on Amazon.com.
Image credit: Wendy