The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) announced that Game Warden Baxter I. Bell has been named Game Warden of the Year for 2004. The honor is the highest tribute presented by the agency to a game warden. A peer review committee comprised of past recipients of the award makes the selection. The recipient will represent the Department at the 2004 Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies annual conference as the VDGIF nominee for their Wildlife Officer of the Year Award.
Officer Bell began his career as a game warden in 1994, after receiving his Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Christopher Newport University. He was assigned to King and Queen County and served there for nine years. He recently transferred and is currently serving in James City County.
Bell has demonstrated outstanding leadership in the areas of both public outreach and law enforcement. He has been instrumental in enhancing the Department’s standing in his community by working with the Virginia Division of Forestry to develop a Wildlife and Forestry education program for elementary students in King and Queen County. Additionally, he developed and taught a wildlife resource education course for seventh grade students to satisfy the state’s mandated standards of learning for that subject area.
He has applied his educational skills in the area of law enforcement by contributing to the development of and teaching a waterfowl identification course for new and seasoned officers. Due to his expertise, attitude and professionalism, he serves as one of a few select Field Training Officers for VDGIF. In this role, he is responsible for mentoring and training new officers in their first assignments and through this very important formative experience has provided career-long influence on new game wardens.
As a highly skilled criminal investigator, Bell has demonstrated his innovative abilities in utilizing the latest technological instruments provided to our officers. He has become highly proficient in the use of Global Positioning System devices and software. Most recently he teamed up with the Department’s Georgraphic Information Systems staff to create specialized maps that aided in a successful prosecution of several individuals who were hunting waterfowl illegally. His fondness for waterfowl hunting (and understanding of blind laws) has made him an expert in educating the public and his fellow officers in this area. In addition, he has acted as the mediator in several instances of landowner/hunter disputes with respect to waterfowl hunting on our public waters.
Officer Bell was nominated for this award by his supervisors due to the profound respect and appreciation that they have for him. Said Colonel Herb Foster in presenting Bell with the award at the June 25 Board of Game and Inland Fisheries meeting, “Baxter I. Bell is a credit to the Department, his fellow game wardens and the Commonwealth and it is my great pleasure to recognize him here today.”
For all these reasons, Game Warden Baxter I. Bell has been named the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Game Warden of the Year for 2004.