Contact: Bonnie Strawser - 252-473-1131
January 14, 2010
Bob Webster Retires after 15+ Years on Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society Board
In the Spring of 1993, Bob Webster walked into the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge Office and offered to be a Refuge volunteer. Having recently retired from Xerox Corporation, Bob had a talent for marketing and sales and a love of fishing. He hoped the combination would be of use to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Thus began a long and mutually profitable relationship that would kick-start the dream of having a U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Visitor Center on Roanoke Island into high gear and would cement the bond between the Refuge and the Webster family forever.
Almost immediately, Webster joined forces with Patsy Zoll, also recently retired, to coordinate the "Run with the Red Wolf" Fundraising effort for the Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society. The idea was to raise $3.2 million to build a "state-of-the-arts" Refuge Visitor Center and live red wolf exhibit on Roanoke Island. The Society entered into an agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service whereby the Service would purchase the land and the Society would raise the funds to build the facility. Webster joined the Board of Directors for the Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society to be the liaison for the project.
For more than a year, Zoll and Webster met weekly with Bonnie Strawser, Refuge Visitor Services Manager, to plan ways to move forward with the project. Strawser commented, "There were some major players involved in this effort, and there was a lot of support for the project. But, when push came to shove, most corporations said they gave to the federal government once a year already. It was just difficult for the team to attract large donations for a project that most folks believed should be paid for with the tax money that had already paid."
"But even though the Society didn't actually receive a single donation for this project, the efforts of this team resulted in the Service purchasing the 35-acre parcel of land on the North End of Roanoke Island in 1996. If we hadn't already purchased that land for this facility, I don't believe it would even be in the realm of possibilities at this point," added Strawser.
Since 1996, the Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society has shifted it's tactics and focused on gaining Congressional support to fund the construction of a Visitor Center and Refuge Headquarters on the 35-acre site.
Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society President Bucket Taylor said, "Senator Burr has been receptive to the idea since the first time we approached him. Once he started asking questions, answers started coming. Until then, we really couldn't get any information about what the plans were to build the much-needed Visitor Center for national wildlife refuges in eastern North Carolina. We appreciate Senator Burr, and we won't forget his support for this project."
Webster, who turned 70 last year, decided the time had come to step down from the Board of Directors. "Hey, stepping down from the Board doesn't mean I won't be volunteering for the Refuge. It just means I won't have to attend the quarterly meetings! I'll always be around to help the refuge in any way that I can. And, I can't wait to see that facility built near my home on Roanoke Island," he said.
Webster's position on the Board of Directors of the Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society was filled by Pam Malec-Landrum. For more information about the Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society or to become a member, visit www.coastalwildliferefuge.com. For updates on the Refuge Visitor Center and Headquarters on Roanoke Island, visit www.fws.gov/ncgatewayvc.
Webster received a custom print showing satellite imagery of the areas of the refuge and adjacent land that he loves to fish and artwork by David Raver of a Striped bass, Largemouth bass, Spotted seatrout, and Red drum - his favorite targets. Pictured left to right: Mike Bryant, Refuge Manager; Stanley Oliver, Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society Vice President; Helaire Webster; Bob Webster; Bonnie Strawser; and Warren Davis, Society Treasurer. Photo Credit: FWS.