Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Remembering Former Center Director Rick Melnicoe

Rick Melnicoe was a fixture in Western agriculture for decades.

As the regional coordinator of the specialty crop pesticide program known as IR-4, or the director of the Western Pesticide Impact Assessment Program, or the founding director of the Western Integrated Pest Management Center, Rick met with, worked with, ran with and influenced a lot of people.

Here a few voices from that chorus.

“My memory of Rick was that he was very practical,” said Carrie Koplinka-Loehr, who was a co-director and director of the Northeastern IPM Center while Rick led the Western Center. “He was very level-headed. He knew an lot about pesticides and pesticide safety and was able to use that knowledge.”

Rick chaired the Regional IPM Centers joint meetings shortly after Carrie joined the group, and she learned from his leadership.

“He was one of the people who shaped my early experiences and expectations about the job,” she said. “I was grateful to him for providing a role model for me.”

Rick was an avid runner, and fast. Idaho’s Ronda Hirnyck, who worked with Rick for years in IR-4 or other programs, remembers getting dropped by Rick on an early morning run in New Orleans and yelling for him to stay in sight.

“We’d start out tighter on runs, but never finish together.”

Rick was frugal with taxpayer funds and didn’t spend them easily. He was networked throughout the West and nationally, and able to advocate for Western needs and priorities.

Former Southern IPM Center Director Jim VanKirk remembers Rick’s ability to move past confrontations or difficult encounters and maintain relationships and friendships with people.

“He’d take care of other people,” Jim said. “He was strong. You could count on him to try to move past difficult things and get people to try to move forward together. If there were 300 million people like Rick in this country, we would be a lot better off."

Rick brought binoculars on trips and a list of birds he hadn’t seen in the wild.

While serving as director of the Western IPM Center, he also ran California’s Office of Pesticide Information and Coordination. Lisa Blecker took over that portion of Rick’s responsibilities when he retired in 2012.

“He never seemed stressed or frazzled,” she said. “I have no idea how he did that. He was always calm and collected, just getting it all done without making a fuss about anything. He was so even tempered.”

Rick had opinions and would advocate for them, but would also change his mind when presented with a better idea. He believed in science-based solutions. People remember that.

Diane Clarke, former Center writer, remembers Rick’s generosity, kindness and friendliness.
So do others.

“He was great with people,” Ronda said. “You could always count on him.”

“He was just a good person,” Jim said. “He always seemed to do the right thing.”

“I really think he was a good soul,” Carrie said. “He had higher goals and really worked to see people succeed together.”

See Rick's obituary in the Sacramento Bee