Dr. Kenneth Clevenger — Celebrating a 60-Year Federal Career Offering Work-Life Balance
By Dr. Kinsey Naylor-Byles, OFO, and Suzanne Hensell, OPACE
Dr. Kenneth Clevenger completed his undergraduate requirements at what is now known as the University of Texas at Arlington. After receiving his associate degree in animal science, he transferred to Texas A&M University and earned a bachelor’s degree in the same discipline.
After graduating with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine in 1961, Clevenger began working in a small animal veterinary clinic in Dallas, Texas. After a short stay there, he opened up his own practice in Balch Springs, Texas. He originally planned to build his own veterinary clinic in Mesquite, Texas. However, he accepted what he thought would be a temporary job with FSIS as a veterinary medical officer (VMO) on July 15, 1963. Sixty years later, he is still working his FSIS “temporary job” as the frontline supervisor (FLS) for the Fort Worth Circuit in the Dallas District.
Clevenger’s first assignment as a VMO was as the inspector in charge at a poultry slaughter and processing plant in Bryan, Texas. When the plant closed down shortly after Clevenger was assigned there, he did relief work across several states. He was offered a supervisory VMO position in a new poultry plant in Mount Pleasant, Texas, where he stayed for about 20 years. During his tenure in Mount Pleasant, he was responsible for training most newly hired public health veterinarians for poultry slaughter. After that, Clevenger accepted a circuit supervisor position in the Mount Pleasant Circuit where he stayed for eight years.
In the mid-1980s, he served on several FSIS task forces, including two regarding implementing new poultry inspection procedures. He later accepted a poultry staff officer position in the Southwest Regional Office in Dallas, Texas. Next, he became the hazard analysis and critical control point coordinator and trainer for the Southwest Region.
For two weeks in the mid-1990s, Clevenger traveled with Russian auditors to poultry slaughter/processing plants in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. They came to inspect the processing of poultry facilities exporting poultry to Russia. Clevenger answered their questions regarding the operations and equipment.
When inspection procedures were needed for ostrich (a type of ratite), Clevenger helped develop the new agency procedures. He is featured in the video Basic Ratite Inspection (pictured below), which is available on the IPP Help portal.
Dr. Gary Davis, deputy district manager in the Dallas District, has supervised Clevenger for six years. Said Davis, “Dr. Clevenger readily addresses staffing, conduct and performance issues in a calm, methodical manner and effectively collaborates with his inspection team members, district managers and program area specialists to derive optimal solutions and outcomes. Earlier this year, he had an opportunity to dust off his old notes on ratite inspection procedures and provided an excellent teaching environment on ratite inspection for the supervisory public health veterinarians, consumer safety inspectors, food inspectors, plant managers and their employees. I admire his expertise, vast knowledge and his contribution to the circuit, the district and FSIS.”
FSIS Core Values
Clevenger believes he demonstrates all four FSIS Core Values — Accountable, Collaborative, Empowered and Solutions-Oriented. Said Clevenger, “I am accountable by demonstrating my ability to meet everyday challenges presented to a frontline supervisor in a fair and professional manner. I am collaborative by sharing my knowledge and experience with others and contributing many suggestions for solving specific problems. I am empowered by having vast experience in addressing a multitude of issues, from EEO complaints to the disposition of diseased animal carcasses, and finally, I am a good problem solver by having ‘been there and done that.’”
Pictured above, Clevenger (seated) with FSIS colleagues celebrating his 60th work anniversary in Fort Worth, Texas.
Standing, front row from left: Consumer Safety Inspectors (CSI) Monte Johnson, Shelly Bukowsky Myers, Oleta Yount and Jessica Chester; Dallas Deputy District Manager Dr. Gary Davis; CSI David DeRenzo.
Standing, back row from left: CSI Barbara Myles; Retired CSI Renee Harvey; CSIs Kenneth Murphy and Brady Hampton.
Photo courtesy of Dallas Deputy District Manager Dr. Kinsey Naylor-Byles.
Earlier this year, Undersecretary for Food Safety Dr. Emilio Esteban, Administrator Paul Kiecker and former OFO Assistant Administrator Dr. Phil Bronstein recognized Clevenger with a 60-year service pin and certificate signed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. They presented these at the National FLS Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Pictured above, from left: Bronstein, Clevenger, Administrator Kiecker and Under Secretary Esteban.
Photo by OFO Program Analyst Alexandra Tarrant.
Although he never intended to turn his temporary VMO job into a lifelong career with FSIS, Clevenger credits his longevity to several things: “I enjoy the job. It has given me time to spend with my family as well as time to do things I enjoy. I have been able to develop championship dogs in bird dog field trials and fill my office with trophies for field trial competitions and bass fishing tournaments. Although this job has challenges, the stress is nothing like being in an active veterinary practice,” said Clevenger.
Clevenger has five grown children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Outside of work, he enjoys spending time outdoors with family members and raising and training Brittany Spaniels.