WEIRTON - City native and outdoors enthusiast Steve Haines has worked at his "dream job" for the past three years, and his passion for it recently was recognized across the state.
Haines, 38, was named the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Officer of the Year for 2013 in January. He was chosen from a department of 117 officers.
"I feel pretty lucky," he commented. "A lot of folks don't realize what we're doing out here because we're out in the woods or the middle of nowhere most of the time. The public sees regular police officers patrolling, but we're kind of hidden."
TOP?OFFICER — West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Police Officer of the Year Steve Haines, left, celebrated his achievement with WVDNR Capt. Roy E. Cool at the District 1 Headquarters in Farmington in January. Haines was chosen out of 117 officers in his department. --- Contributed
Haines is currently assigned to Ohio County and the greater Wheeling area, but he grew up in Weirton. Tagging along with his father on hunting trips around the Northern Panhandle initially sparked his interest in the outdoors when he was young.
"As soon as I was old enough for my dad to take me along, I always followed him," he said. "I saw violations out there with him, saw the results of illegal activities, and it got me interested in pursuing this job."
As an avid hunter himself now, he says he can relate to the people he interacts with in the field.
"There's a criminal element at times, of course, but 90 percent of the people I meet are good people who share the same interests as me like hunting, fishing and boating," he said.
He received a degree in criminal justice from the former West Liberty State College and worked as a Weirton Police officer for two years. Haines then worked in Indiana for eight years as a conservation officer before a job opportunity with the WVDNR brought him back to this area.
He has also been nominated for National Wild Turkey Federation Officer of the Year and Boating Officer of the Year.
"This award really belongs to a lot of people. My family has been extremely supportive all along," Haines said.
Haines specifically wanted to thank his wife, Rosemarie; his parents, Willis and Diana Haines; and his mentor, WVDNR Corporal Steve Himmelrick.
(Dalrymple can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)