Brill to retire from weed and pest careerWritten by Saige Albert
Torrington – Whether it be Russian olive and salt cedar removal, weed management or the Platte River Valley Coordinated Resource Management program, Goshen County Weed and Pest Supervisor Steve Brill has been involved in facilitating and working with a variety of projects through his 28-year career in the county.
Brill got started working in weed and pest districts in Nebraska after his service in the Army and a 10-year stint farming.
“After I got out of the Army, I farmed for 10 years,” he says, joking, “I quit because of health reasons – the bank got sick of me.”
He worked for a short time at Kansas and Nebraska Gas in service and then ended up in Scottsbluff County, Neb. working for the weed district.
Weed management work
“I started out spraying weeds, and they were looking for an assistant supervisor,” Brill says.
Two years later, he was serving as the superintendent of the district. However, friends in the farming community and neighboring weed and pest districts encouraged him to move to Wyoming.
“I worked as superintendent in Nebraska for three years and got to know people in Wyoming at the weed districts,” Brill explains. “I applied for a couple of jobs in the state and ended up getting a job in Goshen County.”
Brill laughs, “For my first two weeks in Goshen County, I was still supervising the district in Nebraska. I ran two weed districts in two states for two weeks. It was quite an experience.”
After 28 years in Goshen County, Brill has been involved in many projects, seeking to improve the landscape in the area by tackling the tough weed and pest issues that landowners encounter.
While he has enjoyed his work across a wide array of diverse projects, Brill comments that restoration work on the North Platte River has been his favorite project.
“I really enjoyed working on the North Platte River drainage system on Russian olive and salt cedar removal,” he says. “That has been the highlight of my career.”
Starting on the North Platte River, Goshen County Weed and Pest began removing Russian olives and salt cedar from the river drainage. They progressed to the tributaries of Horse Creek and Bear Creek.
“I’ve covered a lot of area,” Brill says. “We haven’t gotten rid of all the trees, but in nine years, we covered the whole area.”
At one point, Brill mentions that he and University of Nebraska Extension Educator Gary Stone walked over 140 miles of the river with backpack sprayers treating salt cedar.
“It took us three or four months, and it was a challenge, but it was also a lot of fun,” he says. “It was also different to look at the river from that perspective.”
The project also included development of a DVD titled, “River of Time: Wyoming’s Evolving North Platte River.” The 34-minute film looks at the changes that have evolved on the river through the removal of invasive species.
“That project was later extended to include eight counties,” Brill adds.
Brill references many projects, including a bio-control program that utilizes bugs as weed control, and the opportunity to work with a wide variety of people, but says, “The North Platte River Project has been the highlight of my career.”
In all of the projects that Goshen County Weed and Pest has completed over the last 28 years, Brill comments, “None of this was personal accomplishment. It was all through working together.”
He cites work with college students as summer employees, the district employees and the Wyoming Weed and Pest Council as being great experiences that contributed to an overall positive career.
“The Board of Directors for Goshen County are really a great group of people to work with, and they were very supportive,” Brill adds. “We all worked hard and we worked together to accomplish these things.”
Brill also notes that they have been fortunate enough to be recognized through the years, particularly as it relates to the Goshen County Coordinated Resource Management program and the North Platte River restoration work.
“We received a stewardship award, as well,” he explains. “We were also recognized in Washington, D.C. because we had some federal grants to do work.”
“It was great to be recognized as a team because there were a lot of people who put in a lot of hard work here,” Brill adds.
From around the state, weed and pest supervisors have commented that they appreciate Brill’s work and service.
Wyoming Department of Agriculture Weed and Pest Coordinator Slade Franklin comments, “I work with 23 weed and pest supervisors around the state, and Steve is one of the guys that I call when I have questions or need an opinion.”
Franklin adds, “I have a lot of faith and trust in his opinions on how things are going and if we need to change anything. It will be a big loss to not have him around.”
Franklin further notes that he has long been impressed with Brill and the Goshen County Weed and Pest for effectively utilizing a relatively small budget to accomplish landscape-scale goals and implement programs that are recognized at the state, regional and even national level.
“Steve has always done a very effective job of helping landowners,” Franklin says. “He has been one of the most proactive supervisors, and he’s been really great to work with.”
A look forward
Brill will officially retire on Feb. 5, and in the meantime, he is working with Bob Baumgartner, who will take over as weed and pest supervisor, to ensure a smooth transition when he leaves.
In retirement, Brill says, “I plan to do some traveling, and I’ve got a list of things to do around the house.”
However, with a long career in weed management, he says he’s open to opportunities in the future.
“We never know what opportunities might present themselves,” Brill comments. “I’m open to taking advantage of any opportunities that might come forward.”