Director, Cemetery and Memorial Programs
Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs
Russ began his service career in 1987 as a volunteer fire-fighter while still attending high school. In 1990 he graduated from Judson High in Converse, Texas and immediately entered the service in the United States Air Force as a Security Policeman. During his nearly twenty-five years of service, he was assigned to Air Force One Security for Presidents Clinton and Bush, security oversight for multiple intelligence gathering platforms and deployed to combat zones throughout Central and South America along with Southwest Asia.
Throughout his career he held several positions of leadership and taught combat survival and security skills to several U.S. and foreign military and civilian personnel. While active in the service he graduated Magna Cum Laude with his BA in Homeland Security from American Military University. He is a lifetime member of the VFW, Alumni of the Wounded Warrior Project and a member of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
In August of 2015 he retired from the Air Force and began squiring for the Maryland Renaissance Festival. The following year he became a knight and jousts, full contact, in approximately 110 pounds of stainless-steel armor.
In March of 2016 Russ started working for the state as the Deputy Director of Memorial and Cemetery Programs for the Maryland Department of Veteran Affairs. On March 6, 2019, Russ was appointed as the Director of the Cemetery and Memorial Programs. During his tenure as the director, he has made impacting improvements to the Cemetery and Memorial programs. With the increase in staff, he was able to remove costly long-standing contracts for grounds maintenance and utilized the existing staff to fulfil the need and created an environment of pride throughout the programs. This revitalization of employee responsibility was the catalyst he used to better interpret the unique positions at the veteran cemeteries to the Department of Budget Management which resulted in increasing the pay standard for all grounds maintenance positions. Petitioning his staff he amplified, updated, and reutilized requested equipment at all cemeteries and memorials that improved morale and productivity of all staff. He removed the overpriced uniform contract and replaced it with an in-house system that provides durable, practical, professional options for the staff.
Russ’s future endeavors for the programs include federally granted expansions at all cemeteries, opening of at least two more cemeteries to accommodate the projected legislation changes, increasing staff positions to address increased need for services, and acquiring cemetery lands in areas reaching any veteran in Maryland. He has developed practical cost-saving designs that will accommodate the growing need for veteran burial space for the future needs of the state residents and for any veteran that wishes to choose Maryland as their final resting place. He continues to increase the staff at all cemeteries and upgrades the equipment to keep up with the needs of the employees and the changes in technology. While managing five cemeteries, four veteran monuments and eighty-three staff throughout the state he maintains the achievement of the nation’s highest percentage of veteran burials amongst the tribal, national, and state veteran cemeteries.