Paul Sampson started as a temporary park ranger in 1972. Now 40 years later, today, he is still with the same organization as the operation project manager of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Sampson was born and raised in Elmer and is a 1969 graduate from Atlanta High School. Two weeks after graduation, Sampson began classes at what is now called the College of the Ozarks. Within a year, he stumbled into the career that would stick with him.
"I stumbled into this on accident," said Sampson. "I had just completed my sophomore year and had a friend who had been a temporary park ranger for the corps at Table Rock Lake in the past, and he encouraged me to apply. I was selected in '72 and decided, 'hey, this isn't bad!' so I pursued it."
Sampson has been a park ranger at the Table Rock Dam, a journeyman ranger at Truman Lake near Warsaw, a park ranger at Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota, a park manager at Pomme de Terre Lake and then became operation project manager at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Long Branch Lake in 1998 and has stayed here ever since.
"I always had some desire to return back to my hometown," said Sampson. "And it just so happened that there was a lake project here. Not everyone has that opportunity to return in the field that they established a career with."
Sampson's duties include dam surveillance and safety, coordinating events for the Department of Natural Resources and Missouri Department of Conservation, land management responsibilities, public relations and acts as supervisor for park rangers and maintenance personnel.
"He does a great job," said park ranger, Shannon Henry. "He has great problem solving skills for when problems arise, and he is very knowledgeable—he knows the corps and knows the background very well."
Although Sampson has accomplished a great deal during his time with the corps, some of his biggest accomplishments include building a fishing dock located in the Bloomington area of the state park, installing a vault toilet for fishermen, fixing the erosion that was taking place in the picnic area above the swim beach and restoring relationships within the community, within other state agencies, the city of Macon, the Long Branch Lake Association and the Macon Economic Development Corporation.
"With these relationships we have been able to undertake and complete certain projects for improvement of the recreation feature of the lake that any of the agencies could not have completed individually," said Sampson. "We are able to partner up, pull money and accomplish things that wouldn't have happened otherwise."
Even after 40 years, Sampson isn't ready to call it quits.
"I can see the end, but I'm not ready to announce any retirement plans just yet," said Sampson. "It's a good agency ... I wouldn't have stayed this long if I didn't like it."