VALE - When it comes to finding the next person to manage 5.1 million acres of public land, it turns out the hiring process isn’t that much different from any other job.

Wayne Monger, the new Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Vale district manager, said he found out about the job on USAJOBS, where federal government civil service jobs are posted. After sending in a resume, going through background checks and weeks of interviews, Monger found out that he’d be replacing Don Gonzalez as the next Vale district manager.

Gonzalez served 14 years in the role and retired in December. Shane Deforest has served as acting district manager and will now return to his role as deputy district manager. 

The new role puts Monger in charge of nearly 200 employees at the Vale District office and a yearly budget that exceeds $17 million. His list of duties includes coordination with the agency’s state director, managing BLM lands for multiple uses, and supervising the staff.

Originally from New Mexico, Monger served in the U.S. Navy early on in his career before leaving in 1991. Monger went on to New Mexico State University before going on to fieldwork that included the U.S. Coast Guard and working for the U.S. Forest Service on a fire crew. 

Around 2012, Monger joined his wife at the BLM and moved into supervisory roles. Monger most recently worked as deputy district manager of the BLM Roseburg District.

Monger said that after growing up in New Mexico and working in places like Phoenix and southern Utah, he looks forward to returning to the high desert environment. 

“I’m used to hot days and cold winters. I love the mountains and the trees but I like to dry out every now and then also,” said Monger. 

Monger still expects there to be a learning curve when going from the 408,000-acre Roseburg District to the Vale District that covers 5.1 million acres — an area larger than the state of Connecticut. But if everything were the cookie-cutter, Monger says, it wouldn’t be any fun. 

Wayne Monger, new Vale District BLM manager. (Photo courtesy of Vale BLM office)

While he earned in April that he got the job, Monger’s first day was only last week. One of the most urgent matters during his first week on the job has been filling multiple vacancies in the Vale operation. According to Larisa Bogardus, Vale District public affairs officer, about one out of five jobs is vacant because of retirements and departures for other jobs. 

The priority right now is ensuring that the fire organization is staffed, trained and ready for the season. Monger plans on going to meet the BLM firefighting crew at the end of the month. 

Monger is primarily working remotely now but said that he hopes to have fully moved to Vale by July. Earlier in the year, Monger drove with his wife and daughter to Malheur County to check the area out and saw plenty of potential areas for two of his favorite activities - riding his ATV and fishing. 

Monger plans to visit Vale at the end of the month to meet the team and fire crew.

“Any good team is made of a lot of good people. I might be the one that takes on the hard decisions but it’s not done in a void,” said Monger.

News tip? Contact reporter Joey Cappelletti at [email protected] or 616-610-3093.

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