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By Crystal Howerton
The retirement of Missouri Conservation Agent Sam Gunter marks the end of long and rewarding career in Knox County. After serving Knox County for over 33 years, he will retire on August 1, 2007.
As a teenager in Mississippi, Sam first entertained the possibility of a career in Missouri while reading an "Outdoor Life" magazine. The issue discussed wildlife problems in Central Missouri. Gunter recalls thinking that Missouri might be a nice state to live and work. However, wherever he chose to work, it would be a career in the outdoors. Then while serving as a Missile Base Communications Supervisor at Whiteman Air Force Base from 1968 to 1969, Sam revisited the idea of putting down roots in Missouri. "On my days off," he shared, "a buddy and I drove – allover Missouri, just enjoying the scenery."
After attending Central Missouri State University for four years with a major in Criminal Justice and a minor in Law Enforcement, Gunter was offered a position as Conservation Agent in Knox and Scotland counties, just nine credit hours short of his degree. Beginning on January 1, 1974, it was a career that he enjoyed for over 33 years.
Gunter served as the Conservation Agent to Knox and Scotland Counties for two years before convincing his superiors of the need for Scotland County to have its own agent. He was instrumental in the establishment of a separate agent in Scotland County in 1980. He described his job in the beginning as dealing primarily with forest fish and wildlife resources. Over the years, the position has changed, 50% percent of the job dealing with law enforcement and the other 50% delivering information to the public through hunter’s safety courses and other mediums, training, and predator control. Sam admits that the part of his job that he enjoyed most was the law enforcement aspect.
According to his supervisors, Sam has developed and maintained an excellent reputation by working with national groups such as: Quail Forever, Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation and the National Rifle Association. As an agent, Sam was named the Northeast Region Outstanding Agent and the state runner-up for Agent of the Year in 1993. In addition to serving his state, Sam served 4 years in the United States Air Force and 1966-67 in Vietnam. He has also spent many hours in the past on local groups such as 33 years of planning and teaching Knox County’s Hunter Education program, youth group leader, church choir, substitute Sunday school teacher and also served as an ordained deacon and men’s group leader.
Having planted roots in Knox County, Sam and his wife, Cindy raised two children here, Zach and Micah, as well as served as loving foster parents to 25 children for the past twelve years. Sam and Cindy also have a granddaughter, Abbie.
Sam’s retirement plans include additional time spent hunting quail, pheasant and turkey and training sporting dogs, however he admits that he has contracted with the Missouri Department of Conservation to assist in the fall as well as helping to make a smooth transition for the new agent.
"It has been an honor to serve under the MDC banner. I only hope that in my years of service that I have been able to lay the ground work for agents to follow, and have upheld the standards of those who served before me."
Following in Sam’s footsteps will be Adam Doerhoff of Jefferson City, Missouri. Doerhoff is currently in the process of moving to the Bee Ridge area and will start his new position on August 1.