Without a full-time presence in either Lake or Cuyahoga County for several months, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has assigned two of its 16 soon-to-graduate cadets to the respective county jurisdictions.
Under policies laid out long ago the Wildlife Division assigns to each of the state’s 88 counties a commissioned wildlife officer.
Though while such a policy makes perfect logistical and management sense the state frequently experiences openings. The reason for this is due to retirements, promotions or simply because a person no longer desires to remain a state wildlife officer.
And both Lake and Cuyahoga counties are known to burn out officers, who exit them because each are urban in nature and thus exposes the agents to round-the-clock people problems even more so at times than wildlife issues.
Consequently, when the latest Wildlife Division academy graduates July 3, 22-year-old Ryan J. Donnelly will make the drive to Cuyahoga County while 23-year-old Marino A. Pellgrini will high-tail it to Lake County.
In all, Ohio has 10 counties in which vacancies exist.
Donnelly hails from Albany, Ohio in Athens County. He graduated in 2012 with an associate degree in Natural Resources Law Enforcement from Hocking College, also in Athens County.
Previously Donnelly interned with the Wildlife Division as well as the Ohio Highway Patrol.
He also is the son of Tom Donnelly who was at one time the state wildlife officer assigned to Ashtabula County and most recently the law enforcement supervisor for the Wildlife Division’s District Four (Southwest Ohio) Office before retiring about one year ago.
“I was only about nine months old when we left Ashtabula County so I really don’t remember anything about the area,” Donnelly said.
Donnelly says he’s well aware of the dynamics associated with Cuyahoga County; its large size, the fact that its northern edge is defined by massive – and massively popular - Lake Erie, and the very fact that Cuyahoga County being urbanized means a significant network of roads that defy memorization.
“I know there’s going to be a lot to do,” he said.
The important thing now, says Donnelly, is to get his boots on the ground and work with his training officer, a veteran Wildlife Division office.
Pellegrini’s resume shows he is a native of Canfield in Mahoning County. He graduated last year from Youngstown State University with an associate degree in criminal Justice.
He has no previous employment experience with the Natural Resources Department.
No matter, as Pellegrini says Lake County was his first choice when the cadets were asked where they wanted to anchor their respective flags.
“Well, my family still lives in the Youngstown area so I’ll be close to them,.” Pellegrini said. “I’ve fished Lake Erie before out of Fairport and it’s a tremendous resource.”
Pellegini is going to become much more familiar with Fairport Harbor too and not just the straight-shot road leading to the public boat launch.
The new state wildlife officer has picked Fairport Harbor as to where he will live.
That particular detail has some additional merit since the Wildlife Division’s assistant chief Tom Rowan grew up in Fairport Harbor even as the agency has established its Central Basin fisheries station in the community.
Among the first big steps Pellegini says he’ll be taking is getting to know the county’s lay of the land, introducing himself not only to the area’s sportsmen and conservation groups but also to the county’s various law enforcement agencies and officers.
“I want to establish good relationships with everyone,” he said. “I really am looking forward to starting and getting to know the county and everything about it.”
As Wildlife Division cadets, Donnelly and Pellegrini earned about $16.83 per hour. As first-time commissioned wildlife officers each man will earn around $21 per hour.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.