SPCA Head Steps Down

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Mathew Tully Preps for Upcoming Third Overseas Deployment

Matthew Tully is resigning from his position as chief of the Schenectady County SPCA, but he will continue to serve more than just the county from thousands of miles away.

Tully announced on Veterans Day he would be leaving his post as chief humane law enforcement officer due to his upcoming military deployment scheduled for July 2012. Even though Tully won’t be deploying until long after this winter’s snow has melted, he said he wants to spend more time with his family before his potentially yearlong tour. Tully is a lieutenant colonel in the New York Army National Guard.

“It is the most rewarding and pleasurable job I ever had and I leave it with a heavy heart,” Tully said. “It was an honor and it was a privilege to have held the position.”

Being the first chief of the SPCA, which is comprised entirely of volunteers, was an experience Tully said he enjoyed because he was able to help both people and animals.

“The thing that I enjoyed most was helping people. We are very good at helping people that have problems without putting them in handcuffs,” he said. “The other pleasure is saving hundreds, if not thousands, of animals from bad conditions.”

Since his announcement, Tully said two applicants for the post have come forward. He said one is a retired police officer and the other is a retired federal law enforcement officer. The fact the position is volunteer is sometimes an impediment in a search for a chief.

“The biggest problem we have whenever we do a search is the salary,” he said. “The search is ongoing and it is continuous.”

The county SPCA was formed in 2007 after people from the animal welfare community approached Tully Rinckey PLLC, specifically Tully, on getting the local organization running.

Before stepping up as chief, Tully was involved with the general SPCA for several years, but he never planned on holding the top job.

“We were originally hoping to get a retired police officer to be the head of the SPCA,” he said. “I was able to step up to the role of being the chief humane law enforcement officer.”

Besides a background in law enforcement, fundraising abilities will also be a factor in picking a successor.

“Law enforcement and fundraising ability will be critically analyzed during the selection process,” Tully said in a statement. “While the SPCA has established itself in Schenectady County, we rely heavily on donations and volunteers to run our organization.”

Tully said the county SPCA would benefit from a new person leading the organization. He said he had the skills for the “birthing” phase of the organization, but a different skill set would be appropriate for its “adolescent” and beyond.

The SPCA is at a “very high point,” he said, after its officers were recently appointed as the county animal control officers for the purpose of enforcing licensing and control of dogs.

“I like the idea of leaving at a high point,” he said. “I think there are a lot more things that could be done with the organization.”

The recently reached agreement with the county means revenue generated from fines is split evenly between the county Sheriff’s Office and SPCA. The 50 percent given to the SPCA will go towards further enforcement and the Sheriff’s Office’s half will go into an account to be used for housing animals. Any tickets issued by the SPCA will now be under penal law instead of civil law, so the District Attorney’s Office will prosecute those cases. City or town attorneys previously handled the cases.

Tully said the demand on the SPCA has only been growing over time.

“The organization now is reaching an unprecedented level of phone calls,” he said.

Being a part of the SPCA isn’t Tully’s only passion though.

Tully has been in the National Guard for 13 years after receiving an ROTC scholarship providing funding for his college education. After serving his obligation to the guard, he enrolled in law school and eventually started his law firm out of his home.

“I love being in the military just as much as I love being a humane enforcement officer,” he said. “I look forward to this year in Afghanistan.”

Previously, he was deployed in Iraq, Kuwait, Egypt, South Korea and Germany. This will be his first deployment in Afghanistan. Tully has experience as an artillery officer, but in his upcoming deployment he’ll serve as a space operations officer. He said less than one percent of people in the army are space qualified.

“(I) make sure all of the space assets are being used to protect the military and make sure space assets are not being interfered by the enemy,” he said.

Some specific duties of the position include monitoring spy satellites, global positioning systems and Blue Force Tracking, a system used to watch the positions of American soldiers.

“It is an interesting topic when lawyers come up to me and ask, ‘What do you do?’” he said.

A memorable experience for Tully was the first time his unit was attacked by an enemy during the Iraq war, which included taking rockets and motor fire.

“I have stood eye-to-eye with communists and terrorists and it is all because of military experience,” he said.

Coming back home isn’t always the easiest thing, either.

“When you go through experiences like that it is difficult to relate to people that haven’t,” he said. “(My wife) wasn’t able to experience those emotions that you go through that are there … A lot of times you don’t want to tell those things to someone you love.”

He said after returning home it can be difficult to maintain bonds created with fellow unit members while trying to balance personal and work life. The business aspect also isn’t easy; he said once he leaves some of his clients don’t stay with the law firm. On top of trying to gain back former clients, he also brushes up on legal rulings to keep his knowledge current.

Oddly enough, he said when he is deployed his life is less stressful due to the strict schedules and always knowing where he has to be and what he has to do every minute of the day. Also, he doesn’t have to worry about what to cook or eat.

“Life in a war zone is relatively stress-free without the shooting,” he said.

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