With the new year comes bittersweet news from AFS headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland: Tom Bigford is retiring as Director of Policy, with Drue Winters taking his place at the helm.
“While Tom will continue to participate in AFS activities as a member of the Society, his invaluable expertise and persona will be greatly missed. Tom has worked tirelessly to advance the policy priorities of AFS and has employed his measured, balanced style in a way that has impressed our partners in government and NGO sectors equally,” said AFS Executive Director Doug Austen.
A 2017 AFS Meritorious Service Award recipient, Tom has been an American Fisheries Society (AFS) member since 1973. Throughout his years with AFS, he has made impressive contributions to the Society. He is a member of eight AFS sections, past chair and longtime member of the Resource Policy Committee, past president of the Fish Habitat Section, and was a regular contributor to columns in Fisheries magazine.
The Meritorious Service Award is awarded to an individual for unswerving loyalty, dedication, and meritorious service to the Society over a long time; and for exceptional commitment to the Society’s programs, ideals, objectives, and goals.
Tom is a member of the Board of Directors and past President of The Coastal Society (TCS). Tom has been a member of TCS since 1976, and formerly served as Secretary, Executive Director, Director, publications editor, and conference program chair.
He has been the AFS liaison to TCS for more than a decade. During that time, one of his primary TCS missions was to inspire partnerships with AFS and other aquatic societies. Initiatives included bringing AFS and TCS to the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation's biennial conference in November 2015 for a special session on fisheries in coastal watersheds and co-editing a special issue of the official TCS journal, Coastal Management.
For the past three years, Tom served as Policy Director for AFS. In that capacity, he worked tirelessly with the Resource Policy Committee and AFS leadership to completely re-engineer the AFS policy voice. Tom also served as the coordinator for the Consortium of Aquatic Science Societies, a critical partnership group of now nine professional societies banded together to work on issues that affect our nation's aquatic resources. The CASS partnership has grown significantly under his mentorship from five to nine science societies Tom has also built successful partnerships with key federal agencies including U.S. Forest Service, NOAA, BLM, and USFWS. Through his relationships with the AFS policy fellows, AFS has a reputation for convening high quality, scientifically sound Congressional briefings on a wide variety of topics.
Prior to working at AFS, Tom was chief of the Habitat Protection Division at the Office of Habitat Conservation at the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) for 18 years, earning a Gold Medal and two Silver Medals for meritorious service during his tenure at NOAA. Tom is a role model for a career that has been impactful, contributed to the well-being of others, and has made a significant difference to the future of our aquatic resources. One of Tom’s major projects to keep him busy in retirement is to earn his Master Gardener certificate so that he can continue to contribute to people in yet another positive manner.