Ray Petering ODNR
COLUMBUS — On Wednesday morning, Ray Petering was out of his job as chief of the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
“Terminated” was the word the more than 30-year veteran of the division used to describe his abrupt exit, while Ohio Department of Natural Resources director James Zehringer characterized the change in a letter to the ODNR staff as Petering “returning to retirement.”
“I went in for a meeting that was supposed to be on a different topic, and I was told I was terminated. The director and his two top assistants were there. There was no discussion and no explanation,” Petering told The Blade. He said he then spoke briefly with the human relations staff, gathered his belongings from his office, and left the building.
Petering, who was named chief at wildlife in November, 2015, had been at philosophical odds with ODNR leadership about a number of issues, including the direction and funding of the wildlife division. He had retired as acting assistant chief in 2011, then brought his extensive experience to the post when he came out of retirement to lead the wildlife division.
At the time he was appointed chief, Zehringer called Petering “the ideal candidate for this job.”
On Wednesday, a spokesman for the ODNR offered this perspective from Zehringer: “I want to recognize the commitment of former chief Ray Petering as an effective wildlife conservationist and thank him for his efforts.”
Petering’s sudden departure follows the recent resignation of Mike Budzik, who had been the primary adviser to Gov. John Kasich on matters involving the ODNR. Budzik, a former chief of the Division of Wildlife, laid out a scathing rebuke of ODNR leadership in his lengthy resignation letter.
Petering — who holds a bachelor of science in Fisheries Management from Ohio State University and a master’s in Fisheries Biology from the University of Georgia — worked in fisheries research as a biologist with the Division of Wildlife and held administrative posts in the central office. He was the executive administrator in the fish management and research section at the time of his 2011 retirement. When he was named chief, Petering replaced the late Scott Zody, who had resigned a couple of months earlier.
In his letter to the ODNR staff revealing Petering’s departure, Zehringer announced Mike Miller would be the new chief of the Division of Wildlife. Miller — who had been serving as chief of the ODNR Division of Watercraft since 2014 and also was the ODNR’s boating law administrator — has almost two decades of experience as a wildlife officer.
“As a commissioned former wildlife officer, Chief Miller is expected to bring a new perspective to the position of chief,” Zehringer said in an ODNR statement. “He has the necessary experience and passion to be an effective leader for Ohio’s sportsmen and women. Miller intends to reach out to staff and sportsmen to identify their priorities.
“He returns to the Division of Wildlife with a new perspective in regard to customer service and providing access and opportunities for Ohio’s anglers, hunters, and trappers.”
Miller, who has been with the ODNR for more than 28 years, has been honored as the Shikar Safari Award for Wildlife Officer of the Year, Ohio State Grange Police Officer of the Year, Turn in a Poacher Officer of the Year, and Ohio Bow Hunter Officer of the Year.
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6068.