2021 Animal Control Hall of Fame Inductee
By John Mays
It is with a great honor that we announce our 2021 Animal Control Hall of Fame recipient, Michael Gillingham. Michael and I have a relationship that travels way back in time, to my days as the Executive Director of the National Animal Control Association. I traveled extensively with Michael, teaching in the Level 1 and Level 3 programs, as well as some other stand-alone programs that were developed over the years. Michael is well-known in our profession; thousands of Animal Control and Humane Officers received training from him, and even to this day, officers still mention his name during my teaching travels. Michael was a hard worker, pouring his efforts and knowledge into making each student a successful and professional ACO. Michael is only the second individual to be elected into the Animal Control Hall of Fame, and the legacy that he left on our profession cannot be overlooked. As some of us are approaching the twilight of our careers, we should all look back and acknowledge those great individuals who made us what we are today. Michael is truly a great one, and we are honored to recognize his induction into the Hall of Fame. The following is a reflection of Michael’s career, in his own words.
In 1985, I was teaching at the Greater St. Louis Police Academy. Dave Garcia, Chief Investigator for the Humane Society of Missouri, approached me to teach some classes to his officers. They needed training in subjects that I was teaching to police officers, such as the collection of evidence, rules of law, courtroom testimony, etc. At that time, there was little formal training for humane officers in the United States. Later on, Dave also asked me to teach at one of the first horse abuse schools being offered in St. Charles, Missouri. It was at this training that I met personnel from the American Humane Association who were also there to teach.
In 1986, I accepted a teaching position at the University of Missouri, Law Enforcement Training Institute. LETI allowed me to teach other Horse Abuse Schools being offered by the American Humane Association. During this time, AHA discussed with me the need to develop a training school for humane investigators. So, working with AHA, I was able to develop a week-long class, the National Cruelty Investigations School at the University of Missouri in November 1990. The first class included 40 students from 20 different states. These classes were not only offered at the University of Missouri, but were being done all over the United States. In 1993, a Level II program of the National Cruelty School was added and in 1995, a Level III program was also offered. It should be noted that in addition to humane investigators, animal control officers were also attending as they were also investigating animal crimes.
It was also in 1993 that Board Members of the National Animal Control Association contacted me and wanted to develop a National Animal Control Training Academy. The NACA training academy was launched and, like the NCIS, were being taught both at the University of Missouri and throughout the United States. In 1995, a Level II of the NACA training academy was developed.
In 2001, I left the University of Missouri to become the program coordinator for NACA. As program coordinator, it was my responsibility to schedule all academies, coordinate and teach. I held this position until 2011 and then continued to teach in the academies until 2014.
During my time teaching at the NACA Training Academies, over 10,000 Animal Control Officers attended these trainings, representing agencies from all 50 states and Canada. I also had the opportunity to teach at AHA National Annual Conferences, Humane Society of United States Annual Conferences, NACA Annual Conferences, the Pan-American Animal Welfare Workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa, and the Pennsylvania Humane Police Officer Training from its initial development in 1995 to 2017.
At the end of my teaching career, I now reflect on how it was a privilege to teach all of these ACO’s and Humane Investigators, and to be a small part in helping all animals.
* Recipient of the “Rosemary Ames Award” for excellence in teaching presented in Baltimore, Maryland, October 1993 by the American Humane Association.
* Recipient of the “Bill Lehman Award”, “A Friend to Animal Control” presented at the National Animal Control Association Annual Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota, May 1997
* Recipient of University Continuing Education Association, Region IV, Award of Excellence in category: Exemplary Program in Continuing Education for the National Cruelty Investigations School, 1996
* Police Officer/Detective – St. Louis County Police Department, 1973-1982
* Instructor – Greater St. Louis Police Academy, 1982-1986
* Instructor/Program Coordinator – University of Missouri, Law Enforcement Training Institute, 1986-2001
* Program Coordinator – National Animal Control Association, 2001-2011
* Instructor – National Animal Control Association, Animal Control Training Services, 2011-2017
Additional Teaching Experience
* Instructor – National Certified Investigator Program, Council of State Governments
* Instructor – Cofounder/Program Coordinator – National Cruelty Investigations School
* Instructor – American Humane Association, National Horse Abuse Schools
* Instructor – Numerous local, state, national and international conferences and meetings
The Great Michael Burgwin
August 8, 1929 - March 23, 2016
First Inductee into the ACHF in 2016
"Animal Control: A program that effectively treats the symptoms while seeking to eliminate the causes by compassionately using the tools of education and enforcement."
By John Mays, ACCA
The passing of greatness will never be easy to endure. The loss of any loved one is difficult to deal with, but the loss of any individual whom impacted several lives hurts the deepest depths of our hearts. The faces and memories fade with time, but the legacy of a select few will remain long after we part this world. Michael Burgwin and his legacy will always remain a cherished part of the animal control profession.
The original idea for the National Animal Control Association was born in November of 1977, when 15 animal control experts from 11 states met at the Texas A&M Conference. By September 1978, enough interest had been generated across the country to launch an organizational meeting. On September 27, 1978, 48 people representing 24 states met in Denver, Colorado to organize the first nationwide group representing the interests of animal control agencies, Animal Control Officers, humane officers and state animal control associations. During this meeting, Mike Burgwin was named NACA’s first president.
I first met Mike in New Orleans in 1986, part of a conference I attended to help improve my skills as an entry-level ACO. Little did I realize at the time, Mike would shape and mold my future, long after my ACO days had passed. At first glance, Mike was an intimidating figure – tall, lean, muscular – I later learned a semipro football player turned motivational speaker for animal control officers. Mike had a bellowing voice, and he wasn’t afraid to use it. His “high-tone” vocal inspirations made everyone stop in their tracks, which was well-utilized during times of discourse in meetings. He was a good listener, and he expected the same respect when it was his time to speak.
I don’t recall the exact moment when Mike and I were first introduced, but I remember the handshake. Mike often commented that he learned a lot about a man by their handshake. Being an old farm boy, I’m guessing that I was allowed to enter Mike’s world with that initial handshake, a moment that, unknown to me at the time, was the beginning of our relationship.
Since New Orleans was my first conference, what I expected – and what I received – was an eye-opening experience. While I could dedicate an entire magazine issue to the New Orleans conference, I believe that any stories I could relay should remain securely locked in my head vault. After all, this is a PG-13 publication.
After heading back to my employer in Kansas, I decided to learn more about Mike and the association that he fathered. I kept current on the association’s business, learning much from my regional representative, Jim Weverka in Nebraska (another great man and friend). While attending the conference in Providence, Rhode Island in 1988, Jim had learned that he was to be promoted on the Board to the position of Treasurer. Since I was the only other person attending the conference from Jim’s region, he asked if I would consider taking his position on the Board. Reluctantly, I accepted, but I’m blessed to have made that decision. My position on the Board brought me closer to Mike, not only on a professional level, but a personal level as well.
I spent many a day and night working with Mike. He told me countless stories of the early days, the struggles and achievements. He and his wonderful wife Lorna opened their home many times, not only for me, but for countless others involved in the profession. He and Lorna were gracious hosts, however, I do recall several instances in which I traded work for food. Mike was a contractor, a miracle worker with his hands, so he was always building something. I always helped when I could, although he never allowed me to use his rather unusual saw after a first-time mishap. If only he had provided me with some training….
At some point during my Board service, I was placed in charge of the marketing committee. It was my job to come up with some resale items to sell to association members. Mike agreed to help me with some ideas. Jackets, hats, lapel pins, all turned out to be big sellers. My idea for a visor – and Mike’s idea for the belt buckle – hit hard times. We sold few of those items, until Mike came up with the idea of the “apron” – an apron printed with the association logo, complete with pockets for all “that money” we would earn. He and I would wear the apron, promoting our high-quality resale items. While I looked reasonably idiotic wearing the apron, Mike embraced the garment and went off in the conference hall to sell. And sell he did. Sales initially were slow, so his booming voice got the attention of attendees in the exhibit hall. He later returned to the booth, his designer apron pockets bulging with cash, a salesman skill that knew no competition. Little did I know that designer Mike and salesman Mike “merged” into this super-being? Once we ran low on stock, Mike started to offer some items “2 for $5.00” which proved a hit. Seeing the dollar signs, Mike upped the ante to “3 for $10.00.” While I questioned Mike about the amount, he simply shrugged it off as “NACA math.” People flocked to buy items at the $10 rate, and I tried to keep pace with the inventory. Change was rarely offered, as Mike informed each customer of “limited cash flow” even though his bulging apron told a different story – any excess was simply a “donation" to the association. We walked away from the conference selling over $2,000 in resale items, which was a record. Oddly enough, we still had leftover visors and belt buckles, which eventually ended up as “prizes” years later at some academy programs – or the local landfill.
Mike was no stranger to the animal control profession. He was a leader worth following down the path to professionalize animal control. He earned an Associate’s Degree in Law Enforcement from Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California. Extensively utilized on the lecturing circuit for his valuable knowledge of animal control issues, Mike was the cofounder and past president of the Oregon Animal Control Association, the Washington Animal Control Association and of course, NACA. He also served as the Editor and Publisher of the NACA News and as Executive Director of NACA until his retirement in 1994. Mike had thirty-five years of government, retail, construction and utility management experience and has written and spoken on animal control-related issues for many years. His professional resume was as interesting as the man himself:
* 1950 through 1960 - Martinez, California Police Department, Street Officer, Patrol Sergeant, Lieutenant
* 1961 to 1964 - Donner Lake, California, water company manager
* 1964 to 1966 - Incline Village, Nevada, owned and operated a cocktail lounge
* 1966 to 1970 - Portland, Oregon, paint store manager
* 1970 - North Slope, Alaska, labor foremen
* 1971 to 1972 - Portland, Oregon, Deputy Sheriff for Multnomah County
* 1972 to 1979 - Portland, Oregon, Assistant Manager and Manager for Multnomah County Animal Control
* 1980 to 1985 - Seattle, Washington, Seattle Animal Control Manager
* 1985 to 1994 - Indianola, Washington, Executive Director, National Animal Control Association
* 1994 to 1995 - Honolulu, Hawaii, Chief of Enforcement, Hawaiian Humane Society
NACA’s first corporate office was maintained in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In the mid-1980s, the NACA office moved to Indianola, Washington where Mike and Lorna resided, where it stayed until he retired. From NACA’s birth to 1995, the NACA office operated out of the personal homes of the president, executive secretary, secretary/treasurer or the executive director. With the growth of the association and the addition of paid staff, working out of a family home became crowded and unsustainable. So on 9/22/95, NACA purchased its first property, located at 229 S. Church Street in Olathe, Kansas (a suburb of Kansas City). After the purchase was completed, Mike was the first to volunteer to help with the renovation. Utilizing his superior contractor skills, he single-handedly built our first conference room, enclosing an old carport and pouring the concrete floor. It was tight, but we could fit the entire board in that room. It was unofficially dedicated as “Mike’s room.” He and Lorna were able to visit all 3 of the corporate headquarters, each one a tribute to the man whom had started it all. Property ownership made Mike very proud, as he felt that the association reached a status that equaled some of the other “players” in the United States. Sadly, the first NACA property has since been torn down. NACA went on to purchase two other replacement buildings; the last building, which offered the ACO Memorial, was sold and the ACO Memorial abandoned.
If we were lucky, Mike and Lorna always stopped by during their “tours” throughout the United States, driving that massive rig disguised as a motor coach. Even after his retirement from the association, he still found time to call and chat with me about business. Mike had a sharp tongue and an even sharper wit. While he liked to joke, he also had a serious side. He wasn’t afraid to describe someone as a nit-wit, if that’s what he saw in that person. Believe me; we both talked a lot about nit-wits. He solicited my help in writing a book about NACA, but I simply did not have the time. My work commitments consumed my life, and I have deep regrets about not helping put his history on paper.
In life, Mike made history – In death, he wrote history. While many of us old-timers are in the twilight of our lives, we continue to cherish the personal and monetary sacrifices that both Mike and Lorna made to keep the association moving forward. Their contributions cannot – and should not – ever be ignored. Mike’s legacy encompasses the profession, not just an association. No matter what feelings you may now have regarding the current state of affairs, reflect back to the early days of this profession. And thank Mike Burgwin for where you stand today.
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