CADILLAC — Growing up, Dan Eichinger could be found roaming Middle Branch River in Osceola County near Marion, fishing pole in hand.
Now Eichinger, 38, is the newest and youngest Michigan Department of Natural Resource director, according to a DNR news release.
Eichinger was born in Cadillac, raised in Holland and his paternal lineage is steeped in natural resources conservation advocacy and appreciation.
His grandfather, Ryan Bontekoe, was a charter member of the Pigeon River Advisory Council and served on that group until he passed away in 1994, Eichinger said.
Bontekoe was the president of Michigan United Conservation Clubs in 1977. Not quite a decade later, that same post was held by Eichinger’s father, John.
“Later in his career, my dad was the executive director of Safari Club International and he was president/CEO of the Ruffed Grouse Society until his retirement last June,‘ Eichinger said.
Since those boyhood days in Osceola County, where he got hooked on fishing and hunting, Eichinger has followed the boot prints of his father and grandfather down a path of service and support of conservation and natural resources.
Eichinger attended both Michigan State University and Central Michigan University, earning a bachelor’s degree in political theory and constitutional democracy and master’s degrees in fisheries and wildlife and public administration.
Eichinger worked as membership director for Michigan United Conservation Clubs after interning there during college and from 2004 to 2007 he was a conservation and natural resources policy advisor to Lt. Gov. John Cherry.
After that, he was hired by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources as a legislative liaison. He would help establish the DNR Wildlife Division’s first Policy and Regulations Unit, later serving as its supervisor.
The 21st DNR director’s first day on the job was Jan. 2.
“It’s a huge responsibility, only outweighed by the honor of doing the work,‘ Eichinger said. “This isn’t just work that I do, this is how I live my life.‘