Welcome to TEHA!
President Message by Russell O'Brien


                                                Hello TEHA members!

WOW, I can't tell you what an honor it is to be President of this organization and to be able to serve our membership and advance TEHA further to the forefront. For me it has been a rapid advance to get here and I am still trying to figure out just how it came about!

I started my long road to the Environmental Health Field in 1974 at Southwest Texas State University majoring in Aquatic Biology with a minor in Chemistry. After 6 years in San Marcos, the University was still not ready to give me a degree, so I decided to take a break and moved to the North Dallas area and got a job. Three years later, I moved back to my home town of Houston where after about another 3 years I was sitting at my desk one day, at a job I hated, and came to the realization that my life was going nowhere and it was time to go finish my degree.

In 1986 I was accepted to Texas A&M University at Galveston and moved into my family's house in Crystal Beach. I learned 2 things there, one was that I had to learn how to study if I was ever going to graduate and the other was how to become a beach bum. I learned both well and graduated from A&M with Bachelor of Science degrees in Marine Biology and Marine Fisheries. I soon found out that these degrees were essentially useless without an advanced degree. I was one of the lucky ones and managed to find a job in my field at the Institute of Marine Life Science at Texas A&M as a field technician doing research on sea turtles through capture and release, combined with satellite tracking tags. I then moved on to working as an independent contractor for the Texas A&M Agriculture Service/Sea Grant Program doing cooperative research with the National Marine Fisheries Service and The Gulf & S. Atlantic Fisheries Foundation in Tampa,  FL. I worked and lived aboard commercial fishing vessels doing research and testing of various Sea Turtle and By-catch reduction devices, spending about 275 days a year at sea,

Needless to say this lifestyle wasn't very contusive for relationships and after going through a couple of girl friends and then having a wife and child it was time to find a new career. My good friend Mike Lindsey was visiting and suggested that I get  my Registered Sanitarian license. I asked him why I needed a license to be a garbage man. The rest is history.

After getting my RS almost twenty years ago, Mike introduced me to the late Pat Buzbee, who hired me as a Sanitarian with Montgomery County Environmental Health Department. Pat saw to it that I received all the necessary training for the job, but most importantly he got me involved with the Gulf Coast Chapter of TEHA. In the last seventeen years I have held every position on the local chapter's governing council and was introduced to the state governing council as President of the Gulf Coast Chapter.

Once my term as chapter president was up, I then served 2 consecutive 3 year council at large positions ending with being elected second vice president on the state council. Technically, I should be advancing up the ladder to first vice president this year, however, due to 2 resignations, I advanced to president elect before ever serving my term as second vice president. As far as I know, no one has ever jumped from second VP to president in one year. This rapid advancement has resulted in a large learning curve for me and will require me to lean heavily on past and present members of the council for advice and guidance.

I am confident in my abilities to handle the responsibilities of my position, however, no one person can do it alone. The executive board has chosen to make this a year of healing and reunification. We are planning on one or more of us attending at least one of each chapter's meetings in an effort  to reach out to the membership and answer their questions and put a stop to all inaccurate and false rumors that have been broadcasted. Hopefully, this will allow TEHA to get back on track and return to our roots.

On a positive note, through the efforts and hard work of Duane Gallagher and TEHA's legislative committee; TEHA has become a recognized name and a force to reckon with on capitol hill in Austin. We have been instrumental in influencing the outcome of several proposed, as well as, passed legislative bills affecting Environmental Health. A great big thank you to those members that were involved.  

TEHA has been running on a balanced budget for the last three years now and as a result of that and a couple of miracles were are on firm financial ground and in better financial shape than ever before. Once again a big thank you to Jodie and the members that contributed to TEHA's financial strength .

Again,  TEHA broke the one thousand member mark this year, another solid achievement. Let's all keep up the momentum and recruit more members. Maybe the local chapters can provide current members with some kind of incentive for recruiting new members. The incentives can be any number of things, like free meeting attendance for the meeting they bring in a new member or a free one year membership, any kind of incentive. It's  up to the chapters to decide what they want to do. Are there other fields of Environmental Health Professionals out there that we are missing that could benefit from our organization? Myself and the entire Governing Council are open to entertaining any and all recommendations or suggestions. We just need membership input.

Some final thoughts! Now that our tax exempt status is being processed and the corporate audit is about to start it's time to put aside any personal grievances and all of us work towards a common goal. Let's start fresh, quit pointing fingers, and get back to business.

Jodie and I have had some preliminary discussion and are working on ways to bring TEHA to you, the membership, in any manner that is feasible. Possibly one or two day workshops close to home. We are open to any and all suggestions.  What can TEHA do for you?

In conclusion, let's make this a great year for TEHA. It is your organization and as your governing council we are here to represent you and your wishes. Hope to hear from you all soon.

Here is my contact information, please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions or suggestions.

Thank each and every one of you!

Russell O'Brien RS

Office - 936-539-7839

email - russell.obrien@mctx.org