ERWIN — Rick Hollifield said he never expected to receive an award for the job he has performed for nearly 30 years.
But much to his surprise, Hollifield, an Erwin native and a fisheries technician at the Erwin State Fish Hatchery, was named the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency 2011 Fisheries Technician of the Year last month.
Hollifield began working part-time for the Erwin State Fish Hatchery in early 1979 under the YACC Program. After a little more than three years working there, he applied for a full-time position with the TWRA and was transferred to the Buffalo Springs State Hatchery located in Grainger County, where he worked as a wildlife technician.
After 10 years working at the Buffalo Springs hatchery, Hollifield said he transferred back home to the Erwin State Fish Hatchery in 1992 and has worked there since.
In his capacity as hatchery technician, Hollifield said he is responsible for tasks such as taking trout weight counts, feeding the fish and raising them over a period of approximately nine months.
From the end of June to the first of March, Hollifield said the fish are kept alive and fed. In March and continuing through the end of June, he stocks fish in 17 streams located in five counties — Unicoi, Carter, Greene, Johnson and Cocke counties. He also stocks trout in Wilbur Reservoir located in Carter County.
“It’s just a cycle,” he said. “It just goes around and keeps on going.”
Hollifield said he has never lost a fish in the stocking process.
Hollifield’s supervisor at the Erwin Hatchery, David Lane, submitted a letter to the TWRA recommending him for the award. In December, Hollifield was recognized at a meeting of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission.
Last year marked the second year the TWRA has recognized employees with such awards. Hollifield described the trip to Nashville to receive the award as “exciting.”
“I was kind of excited-slash- nervous,” he said. “I never really thought I’d get it, but I guess somebody in Nashville must have thought different. ... I don’t know, it’s an honor. It’s an honor to get an award like this.”
Hollifield said the award wouldn’t have been possible without the knowledge he picked up from fellow employees while working at the Buffalo Springs and Erwin hatcheries. And he also gives credit to his wife, Pratina, who he said has been by his side throughout his experiences in the state’s hatcheries system.
“She’s been behind me through all of it,” Hollifield said. “I probably wouldn’t have made it without her.”
This July will mark 30 years of working full-time in the TWRA’s hatcheries system for Hollifield. Although he is contemplating the possibility of retiring later this year, Hollifield said working at the hatcheries has been a “joy,” and he couldn’t have imagined doing anything else.
“I ain’t got a regret at all about not doing anything else and have worked with some fantastic people,” he said.