By MIKE CORN
Robin Jennison is excited about his new job as secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
"As you know, for anyone who loves the outdoors, it's a great opportunity," Jennison said in a telephone interview. "I'm looking forward to it."
Jennison, a farmer and lobbyist from the Healy area in Lane County, was named as KDWP secretary a week ago, replacing Mike Hayden. Both men are former House speakers. Hayden, who served more than six years as secretary, was a former governor.
Jennison said he's not ready to make dramatic changes in the department.
"The governor has several things he'd like to do," Jennison said of initiatives that Gov. Sam Brownback has talked about, at least internally.
Most of those changes likely will affect state parks, but won't exclude Kansas pheasant and deer hunting.
That will include efforts to market the state, to attract people.
"I think it's going to be an exciting four years," Jennison said.
Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, who is chairing the Senate Natural Resources Committee, said he's happy to see Jennison in the position.
Ostmeyer said he was a little surprised as well, noting that years ago he urged Jennison to try for the job, but Jennison said he was happy farming and working as a lobbyist.
While he's willing to take a second look at policies within the department, he said he thinks KDWP personnel are doing a good job.
The biggest concern right now, he said, is the state park system.
Although he thinks there's already a good job of marketing the parks, he said there's not enough money to make all the improvements needed or complete all the maintenance required.
There's also the issue of about $5 million coming from the state general fund, an amount that might be in jeopardy considering the state of the state's finances.
On the other side of the agency, Jennison said, a good job is being done to manage wildlife.
Exactly how new programs or new marketing efforts will be conducted remains uncertain.
"Taxes are out of the question," Jennison said of any effort to either impose a small sales tax or even a fee on licenses. Increases in user fees will be just as difficult, he said.
Not so surprising, given his background as for House speaker and as a lobbyist in the days after his tenure in the Legislature, Jennison said he's be working closely during the legislative session.