Gary Teeler, Assistant Commander, Texas Game Warden
Alumnus Gary Teeler began his career as a Texas Game Warden in the woods of Van Zandt County, a one-man station in the middle of Northeast Texas. Eighteen years later, he serves as Assistant Commander of the law enforcement arm of Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) Department, providing strategic planning and oversight for the division.
“You sign up to be a game warden to work in the outdoors, but many years later you wind up working inside an office with no windows,” joked Teeler, a 2011 graduate of the Master of Science in Leadership and Management program.
The beach at Lake Tawakoni in Van Zandt County. Teeler started his career in a rural county located halfway between Dallas and Tyler that included a big lake -- Lake Tawakoni – and variety of illegal hunting.
“When you are out in the middle of nowhere, some people think no one is watching,” said Teeler. “I was surprised at the inventiveness of certain people. Seasons didn’t matter and neither did day or night. Every day was a new day, and you would just roll into another thing.”
His second assignment in Austin – his hometown – couldn’t have been more different. In the heavily populated area, there were four game wardens to patrol Lakes Travis and Austin, as well as the illegal hunting going on in subdivisions and golf courses.
“Wherever there were animals, there was someone hunting them,” said Teeler.
While in the field, Teeler began his passion for training. While in Van Zandt County, where he frequently backed up law enforcement in a two county area, and later took courses in various policing issues and provided in-service workshops for his fellow game wardens in such topics as field sobriety testing . He also dealt with numerous domestic violence calls and dedicated time to learning how to better handle these situations. He became an instructor on family violence, child abuse, sexual assault and human trafficking investigations for the Texas Municipal Police Association (TMPA), and he continues to teach courses for them on a regular basis.
After six years in the field, Teeler was assigned to the Game Warden Training Academy, where he served as cadet class coordinator. He was responsible for setting the schedule for the seven-month academy that trained recruits as state peace officers as well as wildlife law enforcement specialists. During his time at the academy, he helped introduced new in-service courses, including crisis intervention to teach officers how to effectively deal with people with mental health issues, and a simunitions course, which uses non-lethal weapons to instruct officers on proper use of force in different scenarios.
The obstacle course at the Texas Game Warden Academy.When the Game Warden Training Academy relocated to Hamilton County, Teeler wanted to stay in Austin and promoted to Assistant Commander, where he is responsible for many oversight activities for the division, such as audits, inspections, property inventory and fleet management. In addition, he handles strategic planning and technology needs and grant management for the TPW Law Enforcement Division.
During his tenure, Teeler has helped in the receipt of about $6.5 million in grant funds from such entities as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Port Security, Homeland Security and the Governor’s Office, mostly to provide new equipment for wardens in the field. By the end of the year, wardens will be equipped with mini I-pads to accompany their I-phones, which will allow them the capability to do quick record checks in the field. Teeler helped receive funding for 50 mobile fingerprint readers to get on-the-spot identification of possible criminals.
Teeler (right) congratulates the 2013 Officer of the Year for the Association of Midwest Fish and Game Law Enforcement. Teeler also stays connected to the broader law enforcement community. In addition to being an instructor TMPA, he is Vice-President of the Association of Midwest Fish and Game Law Enforcement Officers (AMFGLEO), which cover 16 states and several Canadian provinces, and serves on the Executive Council of the Texas Interoperable Communications Coalition (TxICC), a statewide group of representatives that have come together in a cooperative effort to facilitate the planning, developing, and financing of a statewide interoperable public safety wireless communication system . He also sits on a curriculum development committee at Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, which revised requirements for basic peace officer course.
“That’s what it’s all about,” said Teeler. “You get more stuff done by working with other people than you ever will get done on your own.”
After years of working for Texas Parks and Wildlife, Teeler decided to go back for his Master’s degree to see how theory applied to his practices in the field.
“They make a lot more sense now,” said Teeler. “It was a much more enjoyable experience. I took the Master of Leadership and Management Weekend Program. and I looked forward to going to class once a month. I liked interacting with the other folks and a made some good friends. I liked having a chance to come back after working so many years and to look at the theories again.”
For criminal justice students who are seeking careers as game wardens, Teeler has two pieces of advice: be careful what you do as a student and become familiar with the day-to-day operations of the job you are interested in.
“It is a very competitive world,” Teeler said. “If there are two candidates that are equal and one has something negative on their record or background, the other one will most likely get the job. “
Because a bachelor’s degree is required to become a game warden, students need to do something else to make themselves stand out. He suggests dong ride-along with game warden so you get familiar with the lifestyle and be more comfortable in the interviewing process. “You need to know what game wardens do,” he said.