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Tom Kerr joins refuges guests during a recent swan banding.  Photo by USFWS.

Tom Kerr joins refuges guests during a recent swan banding. Photo by USFWS.

Tom Kerr Named National Wildlife Refuge Association’s
2015 Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year

Tom Kerr, Refuge Manager at St. Croix Wetland Management District and Whittlesey Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin is the 2015 winner of the National Wildlife Refuge Association’s Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year award.

The Paul Kroegel award is the most prestigious of all honors for Refuge System staff, given to those who demonstrate leadership and bold vision emblematic of Kroegel’s lasting legacy as the System’s first refuge manager.

“Tom has over 25 years experience in management roles in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a strong work ethic, excellence in developing partnerships, and dedication toward the mission of the Service,” stated David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “It is clear that he is loved by the community, respected by his colleagues, and is dedicated to the protection of wildlife.”

Kerr began his career in 1989 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a Cooperative Education Student and Refuge Operations Specialist at Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota. In 1992 he moved to Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Management District as an Assistant Manager and became the Deputy Manager in 1997. While at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Kerr developed a variety of different partnerships within the community, wrote and received grants for the refuge, and was awarded the Minnesota Federal Executive Board Civil Servant of the Year award in 1995 and in 2006. In 2007, Kerr became the Refuge Manager at St. Croix Wetland Management District in Wisconsin, and in 2008 gained the additional role of managing the Whittlesey Creek National Wildlife Refuge also in Wisconsin.

As Refuge Manager, Kerr works closely with the Friends of the St. Croix Wetland Management District (FSCWMD) to build a partnership between the public and the St. Croix WMD. Prior to this partnership, many management activities were met with reservation, hesitation, and skepticism from the public. Currently, the FSCWMD are actively involved in increasing awareness of the wetland management district in the public through events on the refuge, speaking engagements, and events in the community. The Friends group has significantly improved the public perception of the refuge and the activities happening on it.

To further increase the awareness about the WMD and explore potential partnerships, Kerr routinely presents at sportsmen’s clubs and attends meetings with special interest groups and other nonprofit organizations. Kerr also published a biweekly newspaper column to reach the community and detail projects happening on the refuge. He appreciates the importance of establishing positive relations with the local communities.

Kerr also recognizes the importance of effectively leading and guiding his staff. He is fully engaged in their development, identifying strengths in each of his employees and providing challenging opportunities, and training to further develop these strengths. Kerr has also employed the efforts of his staff to work with congressional staffers, leading bus and canoe tours with the goal of educating each of them on current station efforts and future goals.

Not only does Kerr excel when working with and leading people, he is also highly dedicated to conservation efforts. Kerr established a partnership with 15 local non-profit organizations to find ways to restore and promote grassland on the landscape in response to the decline in grassland bird populations across the Midwest over the past 20 years.

This year’s awards will be presented at a reception in Washington, DC on March 24, 2015.

The National Wildlife Refuge Association is the only independent nonprofit that promotes and protects the world’s largest wildlife conservation network: the National Wildlife Refuge System.

For more information on this and the other 2015 awards, visit the refuge association web site at:

By Emily Paciolla
National Wildlife Refuge Association

Tom Kerr. Photo by USFWS.

Tom Kerr. Photo by USFWS.


Last updated: June 8, 2020