Dallas Baker (BSME 93, MS 97) has retired from a longtime job, but he isn’t finishing working yet.
After serving nearly 24 years with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality in a variety of roles, the mechanical engineering alumnus has joined Neel-Schaffer Inc. of Jackson as the firm’s director of environmental services.
“I lead a team of engineers, geologists and technicians in assessing properties and facilities owned by clients who seek help in complying with environmental regulations, then provide engineering solutions to meet their business goals,” Baker said. “The diversity of the work and its people is what makes this firm strong and what attracted me to remain in Mississippi as a practicing engineer.”
Baker plans to enhance the capabilities of Neel-Schaffer’s environmental services to enable the firm to better serve a wider variety of industrial clients across the region.
“We are excited about Dallas Baker joining our firm to lead our environmental services,” said Keith O’Keefe, PE, senior vice president for Neel-Schaffer’s central Mississippi operations. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in environmental engineering to our firm that will shape our growth in that discipline. Dallas is widely respected across the environmental landscape, and we look forward to having his vision and leadership.”
A registered professional engineer in the state of Mississippi, Baker most recently served MDEQ as air director and chief of its Air Division. There he was responsible for maintaining National Ambient Air Quality Standards and policies affecting statewide programs that control air pollution. In previous roles, he managed air and water permit projects for several industrial facilities in the energy, chemical, manufacturing and wood products sectors.
“In addition to establishing the fundamentals of mechanical engineering, my Ole Miss degree exposed me to leadership, business, liberal arts and other disciplines that gave me the confidence to seek organizational management roles,” he said. “It has led me to be a more versatile leader in the workplace and in professional associations, and influence operations that affect environmental engineering practices well beyond what I had expected.”
A native of Oxford, Baker attended the university because his father, John Baker, was a professor of medicinal chemistry in the School of Pharmacy, who encouraged him to attend and major in professional studies of some sort.
“Mechanical engineering was the best fit, and I knew then a degree from Ole Miss would open doors that build a rewarding career,” Baker said.
As an undergraduate, Baker said he was privileged to study under many great professors. His favorite was Karl Brenkert, a former dean of the School of Engineering and professor of mechanical engineering.
“He spent significant time encouraging us to use an engineering degree to benefit society, as well as to uphold the highest ethical and professional standards,” Baker said. “He encouraged us to seek the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, which led me to be a licensed professional engineer. Dr. Brenkert made a lasting impression on me and hundreds of students.”
Baker serves as secretary of the Ole Miss School of Engineering Advisory Board and president of the Mississippi Energy Coordinators Association. He was recently elected by his peers as international president of the Air & Waste Management Association, an organization of environmental professionals with over 100 chapters located in 65 countries.
“In my role as president, I lead its board of directors and (uphold) its stated mission and core purpose through strategic planning, sound financial management and exercising leadership principles I’ve acquired throughout my career, going back to my days at the university.”
Baker said the position was particularly gratifying because he was able to be an ambassador from the state of Mississippi and its flagship university to cities across America and countries such as Canada and China.
He is board certified by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists, and is a certified public manager.
Besides his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and master’s degree in environmental engineering from Ole Miss, Baker also earned an MBA from Mississippi College.
He and his wife, Marla, are the parents of two teenagers: Paris, 15, and William, 13. One of the family’s favorite annual trips is its vacation in Fort Myers, Florida, in the week between Christmas and returning to school after the New Year.
“We avoid winter where we can, even the Mississippi variety,” Baker said.
Baker’s father; mother, Shelly Baker; and sister Diane (BA 93), live in Austin, Texas.
“It’s a privilege to give back to a university that has meant so much to me and my family,” Baker said. “We bleed red and blue!”