Janet Tompkins retires as LFA publicist

By James Ronald Skains
Journal Correspondent

JANET TOMPKINS, retired after 22 yesrs on staff
of Louisiana Forestry Association She worked as Public
Relations Director and Editor of the Association’s two magazine publications.
After 89 issues of the Forest & People Magazine, the grand touch of Janet Tompkins will no longer be on the magazine’s pages. Tompkins also edited and published 80 issues of Louisiana Logger, the first and only editor to date of the Logger publication. “It truly has been a great journey with the LFA and our two publications,” Janet Tompkins, who is retiring after 22 years with the Louisiana Forestry Association as both Public Relations Director and Editor, told the Piney Woods Journal.
Tompkins continued, “We’ve always had a great staff to work with and getting to work with the members of the LFA has been very rewarding.” “Not only did I get to know loggers around the state, but also the tree farmers and many of the owners and operators of wood manufacturing companies in Louisiana. Back in 1994, when I started with LFA, we had 2,300 members. Today we have 4,000 members of a very vibrant organization dedicated to the forest industry of Louisiana.” Janet Tompkins didn’t move far from home to find her niche in the media industry.

Her first foray out of Alexandria was to attend Northwestern State University in Natchitoches where she obtained a degree in Journalism. She worked at two daily newspapers in Louisiana, the Monroe News Star and the Lafayette Daily Advertiser for a total of about two years.

Janet also pursued free-lance writing during those early years which carried over till she became a full time employee of the Louisiana Forestry Association located in her hometown of Alexandria. “When I worked for the News Star in Monroe Bob and I met,” Janet pointed out. “He was a sports writer so when it became obvious that we were going to get married, I quit and turned to free-lancing. The News Star had the rule that a husband and wife could not both work for the newspaper at the same time.”

Janet’s husband Bob Tompkins is a well-known Louisiana Sports writer who spent most of his 38 years at the Alexandria Town Talk. Bob was recently inducted in to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches at the same time that Jim Hawthorne, the legendary “Voice of the LSU Tigers” was inducted into the Sports Shrine. Hawthorne, a native of Annacoco in Vernon Parish, got his start as a sports radio personality helping broadcast Northwestern State football and basketball games.

Janet continued, “During the years I was free-lancing and also working part-time with Elton Pody at the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce (now CENLA Chamber), Bob and I raised our three children, Matt, Sally, and Chris. It was in early 1994 that Buck talked to me about coming over to the LFA.”

“I wasn’t sure that I wanted to work full time, so I agreed to come over to the LFA for a two- week trial run. Buck had been with the LFA for 15 years before I came aboard so he had a great staff and a lot of things going. I was impressed with the Forest & People magazine and was sure I could make a contribution to it. Buck was also talking about starting the Louisiana Logger magazine at the time. I knew that would be a challenge which I was glad to take on. My family had a background in farming so I was familiar with the outdoors and the vital role that Agriculture and Forestry played in the lives of many people.” “I’ve had so many wonderful and rewarding experiences in my 22 and one half years at the LFA.

Truly, it was so wonderful because of the people involved and those persons that I met along the way. There was also a great deal of personal satisfaction to handle the production and publication of Forest & People and the Louisiana Logger. I always enjoyed the times that I would be able to get out in the woods, especially in working with the Louisiana Logger of the Year.” “I was right in time to see all the modern technology available for doing layouts and printing publications come to fruition.

Believe me, there have been major improvements in the technology for print media since 1994. It made our job easier and gave us a sharper image for both of our publications.”

“One of the biggest events for the forest industry during my years was Hurricane Katrina,” Janet remembered. “Katrina laid down more timber in one day than the industry would normally harvest in two years.” “We were all scrambling to make sure we could get as much of the blown down timber harvested and to the mills before the logs began to deteriorate. We had several emergency meetings with landowners, especially in St. Tammany Parish. St. Tammany had such restrictive rules in harvesting and hauling the trees to the mills, that it was a real challenge to get the trees out of the woods and to the mills. There were some national forestry organizations, as well as the U.S. Forest Service, that were all there trying to help provide services to get the timber out of the woods in time to turn it into money for the landowners. I enjoyed being able to see how the national organizations worked to help solve the huge timber harvest that Katrina gave us.”

Exactly how, the LFA will “make do” without Janet’s presence due to her retirement remains to be seen. At the recent LFA convention in Lake Charles, Janet was brought back into the fold to help stage the convention with all its activities. Janet was doing her regular “things” that she has been doing for the last 22 LFA conventions, making everything run smoothly and on time.

To the casual observer, it may seem as if the nuts and bolts of the LFA convention run on its own, since the breakout sessions, the meals, the General Assembly and the Logger Awards Event always seem to flow so smoothly. However, it truly requires a tremendous amount of planning and preparation for events to go so smoothly, and Janet Tompkins was indeed masterful in planning, preparing, and implementing during her tenure at the LFA. In addition, Janet as we all know is truly a gifted writer. Also, the Forest & People publication and its sister publication, Louisiana Logger, are always such high quality, top-notch publications that readers may easily overlook the great contributions that Janet made during the previous three months in preparation for publication. If I remember correctly, the magic day of the month for “Janet the Editor” was the 17th of the month.

That was her final deadline of the month before sending the publications to the printer. Janet added, “Another thing I enjoyed seeing during my years with the LFA was the development and improvements at the Forestry Museum at Long-Leaf. Really, some outstanding achievements have been made at Long-Leaf Forestry Museum. In conclusion Janet, reflecting on her career stated, ”I personally think that I made a great decision when I chose to come to work at the LFA some 22 years ago.