Citizen oversight membership

The Game and Fish Fund Budgetary Oversight Committee (BOC) is composed of a chair who is appointed by the DNR commissioner, the chair of the Fisheries Oversight Committee, the chair of the Wildlife Oversight Committee and four additional members from each committee.

Budgetary Oversight Committee (BOC)

To contact the citizen oversight committee, use this address and your message will forward directly to the BOC Chair: [email protected]

Photo of Jess PaulsonAs a native Minnesotan, I have always felt connected to the natural world. I grew up having a paddle, fishing rod, or rifle in my hand enjoying all facets of our state’s many natural resources.

My passion for the outdoors was further deepened when I spent several summers as a teenager on a remote island in the Northwest Angle on Lake of the Woods. This guided me to my college focuses in environmental studies and outdoor education. My education led to internships with the Chippewa National Forest (U.S. Forest Service), Natural Resources Research Institute (University of Minnesota, Duluth) and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' MinnAqua program. Early in my career, I was able to be a part of different natural resource management, conservation, and education initiatives across the state.

I stayed in natural resources conservation and environmental education throughout the pursuit of my masters in education. I have led groups and taught in a variety of outdoor settings while working for the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (National Park Service), Springbrook Nature Center (City of Fridley) and the Three Rivers Park District.

Living near a national wildlife refuge gave me another natural resources entity to connect with. I have been an on-call wildland firefighter for Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge for over 10 years and in 2017 I became a U.S. Fish and Wildlife kayaking and canoeing instructor. My connections with USFWS led me to complete my master's thesis work in native species conservation and environmental education.

For the past six years I have been a science advisor at the Jane Goodall Environmental Sciences Academy (JGESA). JGESA is a public 6th-12th grade environmental science project-based learning charter school located on Cedar Lake near Maple Lake. As a part of this teacher-governed school, I sit on several committees related to personnel, finance, operations, as well as serve on the school board.

I am excited to be a part of the oversight committee where I can apply my experience and knowledge gained over several years of being a part of aquatic conservation efforts and environmental education outreach programming.

Fisheries Oversight Committee (FOC)

Committee liaisons

Brad Parsons
Fisheries section manager

Shannon Fisher
Fisheries populations monitoring and regulations manager

Committee members

Brian Bergson (St. Paul)

Brian Bergson grew up near the shore of Lake Superior in Duluth. During his daily walks to and from school, he trekked along the banks of Congdon Creek. The natural beauty of the rushing water engrained in him a passion for conservation and trout fishing. He spent his summers trolling on Lake Superior for lake trout and salmon and chasing brook trout on the streams that slice through the boreal forests of northeastern Minnesota. During the fall he spent his time stalking whitetail deer.

Brian graduated from Cloquet High School and left immediately for basic combat training in the U.S. Army. He attended the University of Minnesota and earned a bachelor's degree in geography. After college, he was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives, became the director of legislative affairs for the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, the director of government relations and communications for Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson and has spent the last 10 years operating his own consulting business.

Brian lives in the Merriam Park Neighborhood of St. Paul, where he remains active in his community. He still spends his summers fishing and managing his family’s hunting property for whitetail deer. Minnesota has a long tradition of outdoor recreation, and Brian is committed to preserving our natural resources for all to access and enjoy.

James Cole (Montgomery)
Debbie Eng (Richfield)
Chris Hamre (Moorhead)
Judi Hart (Squaw Lake)

Photo of Judi HartI was born and raised in Peru, Ill. This is where my angling addiction started at the age of 4.

I vividly remember walking down to the Illinois River with Grandpa Hart, armed with cane poles, bobbers and bait balls made from Kellogg's Corn Flakes we prepared the night before. My Uncle Joe was another great influence. He was an avid fisherman and hunter. Many days he would pick me up and we would go to a small pond to fish bluegills.

As I grew older, I found Illinois did not have many angling opportunities. Getting to a decent fishing spot always involved some extensive traveling. Then, some good friends purchased a resort in Itasca County in the late 80's, and I found myself driving up to Minnesota often. A job opportunity presented itself for me, and I decided to make the move to Minnesota in 1993.

Living in Squaw Lake, I am an active member of my community. I currently hold the elected position of supervisor for Max Township in Itasca County and have served as chair of Squaw Lake Ducks Unlimited for 15 years. I recently stepped down from that position but continue to volunteer on the committee. I work for the U.S. Postal Service and am the postmaster in Cohasset. These positions have trained me to be knowledgeable in budget operations, decision making, problem solving and community relations.

I have fished many lakes in northern Minnesota for several different specie,s and I feel my contribution to this work group will be beneficial moving forward. Sharing our opinions with others can aid in the overall tasks that we will be addressing.

It is a great honor to be appointed to the Fisheries Oversight Committee. I would like to help preserve our natural resources for future generations and create angling opportunities to inspire more Minnesotans to get outdoors and fish!

Kevin Maki (Saginaw)


Mark Sewald (Dayton)


Nik Snyder (Pine City)

Photo of Nik SnyderNik Snyder is originally from a small town in eastern South Dakota; however, she has many fond memories visiting family in southern Minnesota and the many Father’s Day fishing trips in northern Minnesota. Her favorite memories were taking the camp group’s kids out fishing and seeing their excitement (even if they only caught bullheads). That’s where her passion began for promoting and encouraging others to enjoy the outdoors.

She went on to earn a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and is currently working on a docotrate in zoology, studying wetland birds at North Dakota State University. From her research experiences, she learned how science can be used to improve our natural resources but also how to make science accessible so everyone can use the knowledge.

She gained experience leading organizations (e.g. Lions Club) and practicing fiscal responsibility by managing research grants and club budgets.

Outside of school, she made regular trips to the Red River to fish away school stress and started exploring Minnesota waters by canoe. Eventually, she happened into volunteering for the DNR’s Loon Survey, which her family has since made into an annual vacation to the Superior National Forest, bringing along friends and first-time campers alike.

Since then, life has taken her many places and to many water ecosystems (Galapagos, Iceland, Maine) but she always comes back to Minnesota waters. She lived in Duluth working as a research tech for the University of Minnesota-Duluth and found her first house in Pine City. She missed getting kids excited about the outdoors so she became a Pine City public school substitute teacher. Her elementary students affectionately call her the "bird lady."

n her new town, she enjoys exploring the many wetlands, lakes, state parks and trails. Through volunteer work, she loves using nature to bring together people of diverse backgrounds and working with neighbors to protect their watershed.

If she’s not busy working or volunteering, Nik can usually be found kayaking away an afternoon with her puppy, partner and a pair of binoculars.

Scott Sustacek, Chair (Plymouth)
Thomas Wood (Rochester)

Photo of Thomas WoodThomas was raised in Winona. After high school, he worked as the fishing instructor and cabin counselor for the Minnesota Elks Youth Camp in Nisswa for several years. He then moved out west to be with his spouse, Randi, spending about 10 years in a small town in northeast Nevada.

His love of his family and the state of hockey brought him back to the cold north. He is currently residing in Rochester with his spouse and their furbaby, Magnolia, a St. Bemoodle. Thomas and his family also harbor in their saltwater aquarium a pair of clarkii clownfish, Clark and Ellen, and several rainbow anemones along with Goggle, a yellow watchman goby and Lawnie, a lawnmower blenny.

He and his family enjoy time fishing the Mississippi backwaters and spending time at the family cabin on Lake Vermillion near Cook. When there is ice, more than likely you will find him in a warm ice shack somewhere in the state.

Wildlife Oversight Committee (WOC)

Committee liaisons

Kelly Straka
Wildlife section manager

Jamie Gangaware
Wildlife operations manager

Committee members

Nathaniel Albrecht (St. Louis Park)
Bruce Babcock (Greenbush)
Mark Gutierrez (Vadnais Heights)

My name is Mark Gutierrez. I am a transplant from New Mexico and have been in Minnesota for 11 years. I majored in agricultural business and agricultural economics, graduating with an master's degree from New Mexico State University. I work for the Minnesota Soil Health Coalition, a farmer-led, farmer-run organization focused on educating about soil health. I previously worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in statistics and crop insurance. I enjoy the Minnesota outdoors and love fishing and hunting.

Bryce McVicker (Sanborn)
Samantha Pohlen (Delano)
Kenneth Priebe (Akeley)
Katrina Pulham (Rochester)
Reuben Ustimchuk (Andover)
Naomi Walker (St. Louis Park)
Ya Yang (Blaine)

I have an undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in software engineering from the University of St. Thomas and currently work in information technology as a senior business analyst.

I was born in Laos, and my family arrived in Rochester in 1980 as refugees of the Vietnam War. I have always enjoyed spending time outdoors and in nature. I am a cross-country skiing and road-biking enthusiast and do both as much as possible in their respective seasons. I don’t fish all that often, but I do buy a fishing license every year for that one long weekend of fishing with the guys. And, every chance we get, our family likes to travel to different state and national parks to spend time together.

I’ve really started to take interest in hunting in the past year and a half. I will admit that hunting was one of the COVID-19 hobbies that I picked up. Although my dad and brother have hunted squirrels, deer and turkey for many years, it wasn’t until June 2020 that I bought my first firearm. In September 2020, I bought my first small game license, and, subsequently, my first firearms deer license later that fall. I also went turkey hunting for the first time in the spring of 2021.

As I continue this journey, my growing and expanding interest in hunting and fishing is built on how we as hunters and anglers contribute to the conservation and preservation of natural resources. I’ve realized that fisheries and wild game management is a necessity in every state as well as in our country. And since the primary funding of management comes from hunting and fishing licenses, I’ve looked at hunting and fishing differently. It was no longer just catching a fish or harvesting a deer, and engaging in those activities means that I contribute to conservation, preservation and management efforts so that we can continue to enjoy them for years to come.

By participating in one of the citizen oversight committees, my hope is to learn more about the funds we use for fisheries and wildlife management, become a more-informed hunter and angler and volunteer my time to serve our state.

John Zanmiller (West St. Paul)

I retired after a nearly three decade career in corrections and chemical health. I spent over a decade as councilman and mayor in West St Paul. I now split my time between the Twin Cities and rural Fillmore County.

I am a lifetime hunter and angler, and I have held memberships in multiple sporting and conservation organizations. I am disabled and try to advocate for opportunities for disabled people to take advantage of Minnesota’s great outdoors.

I sought membership in the WOC and BOC to ensure that the game and fish fund was responsibly and equitably used to the benefit of as many of our neighbors as possible. I believe in using data and best practices to ensure that the limited funds are used to the maximum result possible.

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