Boggus officially retired from the Texas A&M University System in May. The Board of Regents adopted a resolution honoring his Texas A&M Forest Service career and highlighting his accomplishments as director.
Boggus spent 41 years with Texas A&M Forest Service, and he was the director and state forester for 11 of those years. During that time, Boggus helped usher the agency into an era of wildfire prevention and mitigation, securing an additional 160 agency responders and saving Texas $16.4 billion in property values.
“Tom’s values created a leadership environment that fostered excellence and enabled the agency to respond to extended wildfire seasons and natural disasters,” said Mark Stanford, Texas A&M Forest Service associate director. “His leadership principles are based on a moral and ethical foundation that encouraged doing the right thing.”
Decades of service to Texas lands
Boggus’s career is marked by the 2011 wildfire season, the most devastating and destructive year for wildfires in Texas to date. As many as 16,000 wildland firefighters were mobilized across the state that year, and wildfires ravaged more than 4 million acres of land: but Texas A&M Forest Service and local fire departments held strong, saving 39,413 homes while simultaneously proving the importance and value of wildfire mitigation.
Boggus’s climb to director, however, was more prominently shaped by forestry. He graduated from Stephen F. Austin in 1980 with a master’s degree in forestry and joined Texas A&M Forest Service as an entry-level forester. He was promoted to a supervisory position in 1982 and accepted a leadership position at the College Station headquarters in 1987.
When the Farm Bill of 1990 introduced legislation funding nationwide forestry initiatives, Boggus became the lead developer for projects that would become hallmark programs at Texas A&M Forest Service. He was promoted to associate director in 1996 and then interim director in June 2008. In February 2010, he was officially made director by the TAMUS Board of Regents.
“He just had a way with people,” said Ron Hufford, executive director of Texas Forestry Association from 1984 to 2017. “He could talk with them, he could laugh with them, but he knew how to get the job done. And people felt that.”
Boggus was elected president by the board of the Texas Forestry Association in 2007.
A legacy of service to Texas A&M Forest Service
His accomplishments as director were numerous and include:
– Building out the capacity of volunteer fire departments by $16.1 million annually.
– Launching the Texas Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal.
– Obtaining $4 million from the Arbor Day Foundation to help reforest the Lost Pines of Bastrop following the 2011 wildfires.
– Responding to Hurricane Harvey by mobilizing agency personnel and assessing storm-damaged trees through Urban Forest Strike Teams.
– Completing the first statewide census of rural forests, showing Texas to be the most forested state in the continental U.S.
– Creating the Leadership Enrichment Program at Texas A&M Forest Service, which helped establish and strengthen agency leadership.
Boggus’s legacy, according to him, is the people he helped develop and the leaders he empowered along the way. One of these is Jan Davis. Davis started out as an oak wilt technician for Texas A&M Forest Service. Today, she is a deputy regional forester for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s Southern Region, overseeing the department’s federal forestry funds for 13 state forestry agencies, including Texas A&M Forest Service.
“What I learned the most from Tom is that once you form your personal and individual leadership style, then own it,” said Davis. “Be that person consistently when you show up. And don’t be afraid to hire people better than yourself or to promote them above you.”