Legislation and Regulations, Political Advocacy, Seminars, Uncategorized

An Attitude of Service

As I reflect on our cohort’s adventure in Richmond in January, the theme of service comes to mind. We were able to meet with so many fellow Virginians who keep this state’s government running day-to-day, and year-to-year. Many of these people are elected or appointed to their positions for short (or extended) periods of time, like the Secretaries, Delegates and Senators, while others have dedicated their lives to serving in state government agencies as a career.

The thought occurred to me that “politicians” are much more than the office in which they serve – they are regular people like the rest of us citizens who have decided to serve in a public way to influence policy in our Commonwealth and to represent their constituents in Richmond. They leave their hometowns when the General Assembly is in session to do the work of legislation and bring their constituents views, ideas, and solutions to be discussed, voted on, and put into law that will change policy for the state in a positive way. This act of public service and leadership takes mental and physical effort, and impacts their families back home, but it is worth it to bring about positive change.

As I visited Richmond, memories of my experience participating in Virginia’s YMCA Model General Assembly back in high school with our Coed Hi-Y club came to mind. It was so interesting as a student to learn about the legislative process in an experiential way, by bringing our ideas for bills to be discussed in committee and eagerly hoping they’d make it through the process into “law.” It reminded me of the impact that individual voters can have in shaping our local, state, and national policy. I also was able to visit with Delegate Jason Ballard from my county while in Richmond and walk around the office building to see other constituents visiting their representatives and lobbying for their views. I was amazed at the number of people I recognized as I walked through the building, from bankers, to farmers, to lobbyists.

We also met with several local ag businesses while we were in the area, including Tanya Cauthen at Belmont Butchery, Dave Cuttino at Reservoir Distillery, and CJ Isbell at Keenbell Farm. There was mention of the support they’d received from certain VDACS programs, and how they’re serving in leadership roles in Farm Bureau and on export missions to expand markets for Virginia ag products. They’re all using their specific leadership skills in different ways to help the industry by promoting its products, taking care of the land, and keeping the history of agriculture alive for new generations who have not had the opportunity to be involved in a farm business.

Speaking of leadership skills, we had a great visit at Virginia Farm Bureau where we learned skills for media interviews and for advocating effectively for agriculture. We also participated in a strengths-based leadership assessment which was interesting to discuss amongst our cohort. A main takeaway is that leadership is not confined to a specific personality type, but all of us have strengths we can apply to serve and lead.

I can’t forget the highlight of the trip – attending VA Agribusiness Council’s Legislative Banquet at Main Street Station. All I can say is that it did not disappoint, and I felt like I was attending a VT College of Ag reunion! It’s so encouraging to see how ag alumni are stepping up to lead the industry through their service and involvement on the farm, in industry associations, careers, and politics!

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