Even while traveling the United States, he would always come back for the summer. Throughout his life, “I looked forward to coming to the lake. I never wanted to leave.” Now he is a year-round resident and calls Syracuse and Lake Wawasee his home.
He’s also giving back to the community and the lake he has enjoyed throughout his life. He is contributing his time and energy to the future of the lake as a board member of the Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation.
He has spent the last two years on WACF’s ecology committee, now as a board member, continuing to serve on that committee. Hess stated he has always appreciated what the WACF has been doing and wanted to be more involved.
His interest goes back to the late 1970s when development began in Conklin and Johnson bays. “The threat to the bays created an awareness that it is important to protect the natural areas of the lakes.”
“Their goals and plans are already in motion,” he stated, adding he hopes to help the foundation grow with the outlines in place through outreach, education, land acquisition and building community support for education. “Everything they talk about, I’m somewhat versed,” he said, noting those areas have been a part of his life in one form or another during the past 35 years. “I like to think outside the box and all for finding alternate solutions to situations.
“WACF is a great organization and we are fortunate to have in our area. Being nominated is one of the meaningful events in my life. I look forward to being a part of it.”
His areas of expertise? He has a bachelor’s in natural resource management and a master’s of business administration from Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo. The natural resource specialist has areas of expertise in solar electric applications, surface mining operations, forest management practices, recycling program management, EPA/IDEM/OSHA regulations, grant and proposal development, project management and support, customer service technical support, communication and presentation skills, sales and marketing, strategic planning and management and supervision.
Hess grew up in Fort Wayne and he and his parents Paul and Dorothy and sister Barb, came to their Lake Wawasee home each summer. But he left the area for 25 years after graduating from a Fort Wayne high school.
He went to Indiana University for 2½ years focusing on environmental studies before transferring to Colorado State. During and after college he worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado and Oregon working at the Rio Grande National Forest, Roseburg District Bureau of Land Management. Here he experienced timber marking, reforestation, firefighting, inspection of tree planting projects, delineation on maps/photos for reforestation backlog to name a few.
He returned to Indiana working for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources as a reclamation field inspector and then a supervisor. Working in southern Indiana, he enforced federal and state regulations on surface coal mines, inspecting mine sites both active and inactive, reviewed permit applications for reclamation plans, issued violations, testified at hearings and wrote inspection reports. He was also responsible for his field professionals activities complying with government regulations.
“I became burned out from that and went back out west to get my MBA at Colorado State. My intention was to start an environmental business of some sort.” He did spend several years in the area of solar energy.
But he returned to Indiana. This time working for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management as senior environmental manager. During the six years he coordinated pollution prevention, source reduction and recycling programs for business and the solid waste management district. He also coordinated federal and state grant applications and assisted on the governor’s award programs for recycling and pollution prevention. Hess additionally coordinated workshops and outreach events for business and the public.
He is currently the regional representative for Cornerstone Environmental Health and Safety working out of his Island Avenue home. He works with businesses on ISO Quality systems, EPA and state regulatory compliance, OSHA compliance, permits, safety training, air quality, energy related issues and more. He travels most of the week to businesses and companies north of US 24 up into southern Michigan.
Hess credits a Boy Scout canoe trip to southern Michigan for his interest in the environment, as well as his experience and time spent on Wawasee. It was also a college summer job at a local manufacturer as a forklift operator that opened his eyes. “I saw materials being thrown away as scrap and realized how much was going on everywhere in companies. I realized how important recycling should be. I really made my decision of wanting to work in the environmental field as a career.”
Hess has learned through the years individuals need to “do a better job managing our natural resources and not waste what we do have. We’ve gotten better over the years,” he said noting businesses are recycling more.
“It’s meaningful work,” he stated, adding the traveling aspect and being outdoors are perks.
When Hess isn’t working or traveling, he enjoys skiing, sailing, wind surfing, hiking, biking and Hobie kayaks.