The Ohio Wildlife Council is an eight-member board that approves all ODNR Division of Wildlife proposed rules and regulations. Appointed by the Governor, no more than four members may be of the same political party and two of the council members must represent agriculture. Each term of office is four years.
Meet the Council
Gary Smith (Pickerington) is the founder and President of Statehouse Strategies, LLC, a government affairs consulting firm. Gary has worked at various levels of Ohio state government since he began his career in 1997 working as the legislative aide to a member of the House Finance and Appropriations Committee and Chairman of the Ohio House Education Committee. Following his work in the Ohio House, Gary joined the Voinovich administration as a legislative liaison at Ohio's Department of Natural Resources.
After serving in the Voinovich Administration, Gary served as a Legislative Liaison and Statewide Media Coordinator for State Treasurer Joseph T. Deters. In 2005, while attending night classes at Capital University Law School, Gary was recruited to the Cleveland area to work as the Director of Government Affairs for one of the country's largest regional chambers of commerce, The Greater Cleveland Partnership.
Gary is a veteran of the United States Air Force. While serving in the military, Gary earned a degree from the University of Maryland. After his military service, he returned home to earn his Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from The Ohio State University and a Master's Degree in Public Administration from Ohio University
Gary is an avid sportsman who enjoys Whitetail Deer hunting in Northeast Ohio with his brother Jamie and turkey hunting in Southern Ohio with his daughter Libby. Gary hopes to bring his work experience at ODNR, in advocacy and his passion of the outdoors and conservation to the Ohio Wildlife Council. Gary hopes to continue to engage younger Ohioans to become more active in conservation, shooting sports and hunting.
Paul P. Mechling, II, DVM
Dr. Paul P. Mechling, II, DVM is a retired veterinarian residing in Pierpont Township, Ashtabula County. He co-owned 2 veterinary practices that provided large and small animal medicine and surgery for clients in northeast Ohio and northwest Pennsylvania. Mechling and his wife Joanne operate the 365 Snowy Oak Tree Farm where they have planted more than 140,000 trees, created wetlands, planted pollinator habitat, warm season grass habitat, and wildlife food plots. He operates Mechling’s Maple Farm, producer of pure Ohio maple syrup and is also involved with management of the 340 acre family farm with his brother located near Thornville. Wal-Mec Farms produces grain and timber.
He is completing his seventh term on the Ashtabula Soil and Water District Board of Supervisors. Mechling also serves as a governor appointment to the Ohio Forestry Advisory Council representing large, private woodland owners. He has been the former chairman of the Ohio Tree Farm Committee and a member of the Ashtabula Scenic River Advisory Council. In 2016, he was inducted into Ohio’s Forest of Honor and his family was honored as the 2018 Ohio Conservation Farm Family Award Winner. Their Snowy Oak Tree farm was recently recognized as Ohio’s 2019 Tree Farm of the Year.
Mechling is an avid outdoorsman especially enjoying Spring gobbler season. The Mechling’s have two children and three grandchildren. Mechling is a strong advocate of Aldo Leopold’s Land ethic and stresses Leopold’s statement “that when man and land are in harmony we have conservation."
Larry B. Mixon Sr., Ph.D.
Larry B. Mixon Sr., Ph.D. (Columbus) served as superintendent for Columbus Public Schools from 1992-1997. He is a U.S. Army Veteran. He is an avid outdoorsman and marksman, enjoying rabbit and wild turkey hunting, bowhunting white-tailed deer, fishing for bass, walleye and King salmon, and benchrest shooting. “The spirit of nature and wildlife conservation has always been an important part of my life; and as a member of the Ohio Wildlife Council, I am committed to conserving these priceless resources for future generations to enjoy.”
George R. Klein
George R. Klein (Akron) is the owner and operating partner of the Hill‘n Dale Club, a 470-member fishing, hunting and shooting club near Medina, which he has led for more than 20 years. Concurrently, he served as president and owner of several news distribution companies. He earned advanced degrees from Colorado College, Denver University and Harvard University.
Land conservation is one of Klein’s priorities. As a board member of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, he serves on the Natural Areas Committee, which aids in overseeing 38 preserves in northeast Ohio. He is also a board member of the Trust for Public Land and was integral in converting the former Richfield Coliseum to a meadow that was gifted to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
As the chairman of the Winous Point Marsh Conservancy, Klein encourages research projects and internship partnerships with colleges and universities. He has also been active with the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Association, the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center and the Cuyahoga Countryside Conservancy.
In addition to his service on numerous conservation-minded committees, Klein is an avid steelhead trout fisherman and enjoys duck and woodcock hunting in Ohio and abroad.
Jim Samuel is an avid sportsman who splits his time between Franklin and Adams counties. In 2005, he founded Capitol Integrity Group, a public policy consulting firm, after working at the senior level of two gubernatorial administrations, including three years as the Business & Industry policy advisor to the Governor.
A waterfowl hunter and sporting clay shooter who grew up on the shore of Lake Erie, Jim is passionate about spending time with his kids outdoors and introducing people to hunting and the shooting sports. With twenty-five years of public policy experience helping to address some of the most complex regulatory and policy issues Ohio has faced, Jim hopes to bring that experience to the Ohio Wildlife Council in support of growing Ohio’s sportsmen and women community and preserving wildlife areas and our heritage for future generations.
Jim is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a degree in Social & Behavioral Sciences and received an honorable discharge from the United States Air Force. He lives in central Ohio with his wife, Heidi, and their two children. Jim is an active member of Ducks Unlimited and has played an active role in the Sportsmen’s Alliance Trailblazer Foundation, which raises funds to get kids into the outdoors. Jim is a former board member of the Clean Ohio Council.
Dave Zenk, Executive Director of Metroparks Toledo, is a dynamic and accomplished professional with over 15 years of demonstrated performance in the conservation field, and prior years of experience in the private sector as a business owner. He is a skillful project manager who is passionate about leadership, quality service delivery and developing strategies that serve conservation and people.
At Metroparks, he oversaw the development of the agencies’ comprehensive plan, fulfilling promises to open 10 new parks in 10 years and place a Metropark within 5 miles of every resident of Lucas County. The agency has received numerous top industry honors including the 2020 National Gold Medal Award as the No. 1 large park system in the nation.
In recent years, the park system has introduced numerous new experiences, including outdoor skills instruction, kayak launches, a rock climbing area, tree climbing, an archery park, a single track trail for mountain bikes, and most recently, the country’s largest public tree house village.
An avid hunter and angler, Dave holds a Master’s of Public Administration degree specializing in organizational development from Bowling Green State University and a Bachelor degree in Environmental Science from The Ohio State University. He completed a one-year study abroad program focusing on leadership at Myerscough College in Preston, England. He is a recent 20 under 40 awardee, and serves on numerous community boards and committees.
Karen Stewart-Linkhart (Xenia) is a graduate of Wright State University with a degree in English, and is a teacher with the Xenia School system. She is a member of the Ohio Farm Bureau, the Ohio State Trappers Association, and, with her husband, Dave, is a director of the National and International Affairs for the National Trappers Association. As a 4-H advisor for more than 25 years, Stewart-Linkhart was a key leader in the creation of conservation projects.
Stewart-Linkhart and her husband operate a 700-acre grain and livestock farm in Greene County, raising cattle and a few bison. They have also restored a wetland and reverted a pasture back to natural grass prairie on the family farm. The Linkharts have two grown daughters. Besides hunting, trapping, and fishing, Stewart-Linkhart enjoys backpacking, canoeing, and camping.
Mike Rex, of Athens, is a lifelong Ohioan and avid outdoorsman. He has been involved in numerous outdoor events and organizations, such as the Buckeye Big Buck Club and National Wild Turkey Foundation.
Rex enjoys all types of hunting, fishing, and trapping. As an outdoors writer, Rex has articles published in North American Whitetail and Ohio Game and Fish magazines. He is an active deer, turkey, and predator hunting seminar speaker. Rex is a graduate of Ohio University and is employed by Kalmbach Feeds.