Steve Byrns, who brought real-life experiences as a livestock producer in West Texas to his job as a communications specialist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, has retired after 36 years with the agency.
Byrns joined AgriLife Extension in 1982 after working as the agriculture writer at the San Angelo Standard-Times.
Based at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in San Angelo, Byrns served almost 70 AgriLife Extension county offices in the South Plains, West Central and Far West regions. In addition to providing communications support to these county offices, he handled media relations for the wildlife and fisheries sciences and entomology departments at Texas A&M University in College Station.
Byrns wrote more than 120 news articles annually, which were published in media outlets locally, nationally and internationally. His news articles reached more than 1 billion readers worldwide through thousands of news outlets.
“The San Angelo AgriLife Research and Extension Center was fortunate to have Steve as the communications specialist because in addition to being good at his job, he was a rancher and knew how to write and present things so that our clientele could see the importance of them,” said Dr. Dr. John Walker, director of the AgriLife Research and Extension Center at San Angelo.
Byrns received a Texas A&M AgriLife Vice Chancellor’s Award in 2014 for his work, credited with “innovative solutions to communications problems.” Among those solutions was naming an educational effort to clear Texas pastures of useless plants “Brush Busters” in order to make it more approachable to landowners needing the information.
“One of the best known trademarks that he came up with was Brush Busters to promote the use of individual plant herbicide treatments,” Walker said. “He did that in part by surveying the support staff at San Angelo determine which of several suggested names would be most memorable. He was also invaluable in planning field days because he knew what everyone was doing and what would be most important to the producers who attended.”
Byrns was named Specialist of the Year in Texas Agriculture for District 7 by the Texas County Agricultural Agents Association and was also part of an award-winning media relations team that received AgriLife Extension Superior Service team honors in 2013. Byrns twice received the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers’ Association Outstanding News Reporting Award in 1998 and 2010.
Byrns served as president of the Texas Extension Specialists Association from 2006-2007.
Byrns was designated the coordinator of public information for the Texas Department of Emergency Management’s Drought Task Force in 2009, leading its Joint Information Center to help all affected state agencies generate common data for use by the public and news media.
He was honored Aug. 30 with a retirement reception at the San Angelo center with numerous colleagues, former colleagues and family in attendance.