Assistant Chief of Wildlife, Kirk Miles is retiring after 28 years of state service. Mr. Miles’ longstanding commitment to the TWRA mission has been impactful and benefitted wildlife.
Mr. Miles started his career with the agency in 1995 in GIS, while finishing a M.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science with UT, Knoxville. He was selected for the Cumberland County Wildlife Officer position in 1996 and completed the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy.
Mr. Miles excelled in the position and made an impression in the region by volunteering and assisting with tasks outside of his officer duties.
In 2000, Mr. Miles was named the Region III Aquatic Habitat Protection Biologist. He thrived in this role, too. “Through his time in this position, Kirk helped build an Environmental Services and Habitat Protection Program, which became a national model of how Wildlife Resource Agencies should partner with, support and sometimes resolve disputes with State and Federal Resource Agencies. Calm, thoughtful, intelligent and pragmatic are the traits that Kirk brought TWRA programs. And, when it comes to the Crimson Tide, he’s loyal to a fault,” shared Dave McKinney, TWRA Chief of Environmental Services.
In 2004, Mr. Miles was chosen for a Biologist II position and was part of a statewide program to write and implement the State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP). A SWAP is designed to help assess the overall health of wildlife and implement actions to conserve wildlife, vital habitat and promote wildlife conservation. Plans also name species of greatest conservation need.
The group, which included Mr. Miles, was highly successful. In 2005, for the first time, the TWRA presented its Biologist of the Year award to a team rather than an individual. The group collectively received this award for their outstanding efforts. Mr. Miles’ work didn’t stop here. He went on to implement this plan in Region III. In 2007 he was promoted to Biodiversity Manager 3. Miles considers this one of the highlights of his career. “We were learning about the diversity of the area, working towards conservation and bringing knowledge to the agency and region to benefit wildlife,” stated Miles.
Mr. Miles’ coworkers have been encouraged by his dedication and commitment to wildlife through the years. Mark Thurman, Region III Fisheries Program Manager said, “Kirk has been resilient and resolute in his knowledge and beliefs, helping lead the agency in fulfilling its mission.” Mr. Miles and a dedicated team of biologists worked on significant projects during this time. The Heart of the Cumberland Project, implementation of bio-blitzes, grasslands and woodlands protection, stream restoration and Hellbender salamander protection are just a few on a long list of positive impacts.
In 2010, Miles was promoted to Region III, Wildlife Program Manager. In this role, Mr. Miles’ responsibilities encompassed wildlife species management, including lands management, wildlife disease control, personnel, training and administration for the Region’s 24 counties. Mr. Miles was known for collaboration skills and big picture thinking. “Kirk was very successful in this position. He ensured employees had the tools needed to be successful in their work. Kirk was effective in nominating and promoting individuals within the agency to continue work for the betterment of wildlife. His ability to assess wildlife or personnel issues and think through appropriate responses led to dependable decision making. He was a reliable counsel and as part of the Regional management, I was always thankful for his learned advice,” shared retired Region III Manager, John Mayer.
In 2018, Mr. Miles was promoted to Assistant Chief of the newly formed, statewide Wildlife and Forestry Division (WFD). Joe Benedict, Chief of this division, said, “Kirk became a great friend and sounding board and quickly became the "implementation guy" for moving the WFD into a new statewide work unit. He was the glue that held the newly formed Division together, reaching out to staff frequently, proactively communicating opportunities, issues and resolving issues. He took the lead in managing budgets and provided invaluable insights. Kirk was a steady presence to both field and headquarter staff. He has been a great friend to all he meets, is dedicated, thoughtful, fair, funny and loved. He has been a blessing to the Division and to me personally. His retirement leaves a big hole in our Division. However, we wish him well in retirement and we’re certainly jealous of the time he now has to fish!”
When asked what hopes he has for the agency, Mr. Miles said, “I hope for TWRA to continue providing not only for hunting and fishing, but also to embrace diversity and watchable wildlife. It’s certainly a commitment to something in which you don’t see the result in your lifetime.”
TWRA is grateful for the many individuals dedicated to Tennessee’s wildlife, from the smallest fish to the largest elk. Mr. Miles’s work and devotion has positively impacted state wildlife management for future generations. To find more about the agency mission visit tnwldlife.org.