When Walter W. Fondren III assumed the chairmanship of the fledgling Gulf Coast Conservation Association in 1977, it was a single-chapter organization concerned with a single issue - the "Save the Redfish" campaign near and dear to the hearts of Texas anglers. When he stepped down as chairman at the CCA Board of Directors meeting in March 2009, he left an organization that has grown to 17 state chapters on all three coasts with more than 100,000 members involved in issues at the local, state, national and even international levels of marine conservation.
During his remarkable tenure, Fondren oversaw efforts that produced significant conservation achievements, including net bans in several states, game fish status for certain species, landmark bycatch-reduction regulations, commercial fishing license buyback programs and Presidential executive orders that elevated the role of recreational angling to unprecedented heights.
"Walter is a unique individual who not only saw the problems facing marine resources and recreational anglers; he had the ability to create the solution," said David Cummins, president of CCA. "No one was even paying much attention to the oceans in 1977. It is safe to say that what Walter created at CCA during his chairmanship essentially changed the entire playing field with regard to marine resource conservation."
Succeeding Fondren as CCA chairman is Venable Proctor, a native of Victoria, Texas, and a member of the original board of directors for the Gulf Coast Conservation Association. He has been involved with CCA ever since and has held a number of key leadership positions, including chairman of the CCA Texas Government Relations Committee and as a member of the Management Committee. He is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law and is in-house counsel for the Estate of Thomas O'Connor.
"Walter has been one of the constants of CCA since its inception and his guidance has been instrumental in making the organization what it is today - the leading marine resource conservation group in the country," said Proctor. "However, you don't accomplish what CCA has been able to achieve over the past 30 years by working alone. Walter fostered the growth of an organization where the creativity, commitment and participation of the volunteers are what drive CCA. I am very excited by the challenge of building on CCA's tradition in conservation."
With membership at an all-time high, the Board also moved to better address the challenges accompanying that growth and announced a series of organizational adjustments at its recent meeting in Houston.
"Growth is a wonderful problem to have, but it does create challenges for our system," said Proctor. "We are constantly evaluating anything we can do to make sure the day-to-day operations of CCA are handled as efficiently and effectively as possible."
In an effort to better position the organization to handle the demands of the future, the Board announced that Proctor will also assume the responsibilities of Chief Executive Officer of the organization. CCA President David Cummins was named Chief Operating Officer and Patrick D. Murray was named Executive Vice President. Robert Taylor assumed the duties of Director of State Development, allowing Judy Shaw to move into the newly created position of Director of Operational Services.