National search underway for Colo. deputy ag commissioner
February 15, 2019
The national search for a deputy commissioner of agriculture to join the staff of Commissioner Kate Greenberg's office was announced last week. Greenberg, who lived most recently in Durango, said she's looking for someone who will round out the staff and fill in the pieces that are needed on her team, including experience with production agriculture.
While not all previous deputies have been from out of state, Greenberg said the position has been filled through a national search.
"I know it's critical to have expertise across our staff and in the commissioner's office that understands different, the breadth of agriculture in the state as well as the mechanisms that we engage in that includes policy, that includes rulemaking, and so I'm kind of thinking about the whole landscape of what we need as a team as a whole," she said. "I recognize how important it is to make sure that all types of agriculture in the state have expertise here on staff to the greatest extent possible."
She likens the search to putting together a puzzle but said, the bottom line is the importance of having knowledge and experience in Colorado agriculture as part of the selection process.
"I've worked all across the state and there's many places I haven't worked in yet, but I've worked with producers of all scales in many different regions so there's that part," she said. "I also recognize there's a lot of communities I'm looking forward to getting out into those communities and to meet with those folks. That being said, no matter who the deputy is, I maintain a commitment to getting to know the whole breadth and depth of Colorado ag as well. It doesn't stop with the hiring process, this is a much bigger process of building out our network, collaborations, and coalitions and individual relationships across the state and across the industry."
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Previous deputy commissioner Jenn Yezak, who served under Don Brown hailed from Texas but Ben Rainbolt, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union said her experience from working in the USDA was a boon to Brown, a lifelong agriculturist. Previous to Yezak was Chris Wiseman, the former Colorado State Fair manager, served under John Salazar and Brown.
Rainbolt said he welcomes a national search and said the good candidates from Colorado will rise to the top of the list given the criteria. He said the agriculture community in Colorado should be encouraging those they feel are qualified to apply to that end.
The job description itself lists specific duties including providing guidance to the commissioner in terms of policy direction and its development; undertaking investigations, hearings, and making determinations as they relate to the department; representing the commissioner at meetings, boards, and commissions including the Parks and Wildlife Commission and the Colorado Water Conservation Board; monitoring pertinent legislation; and monitoring the implementation of the department's budget. According to the description, applicants should have a clear understanding and experience related to Colorado agriculture, among other managerial attributes.
"I find her to be very self-aware," Rainbolt said. "She knows she doesn't know a lot of eastern agricultural practices and she wants to get out there."
Greenberg, who Rainbolt calls refreshingly open and enthusiastic, is working with Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and other groups to schedule farm tours and meet and greet events around the state. He said those who are skeptical of her, haven't met her and he encourages attendance at events to get that chance.
He said he and his members are not concerned with her lack of experience in the realms of production agriculture because her staff of nearly 300 and her senior management staff and division chiefs are experienced and enjoy longevity in the department.
"They know a lot of Colorado agriculture," he said. "She has said she's not going to come in and totally upset the apple cart of the department. I think she's going to rely on those folks to help her along and help her learn how to manage the department, help her learn the parts of agriculture that she doesn't know. They're good people in that department and I think they're going to get behind her and help her."
Rainbolt's ideal candidate is versed in Colorado's traditional commodities with a good knowledge of all of production agriculture.
Chad Vorthmann, executive vice president of Colorado Farm Bureau echoes the sentiment and emphasizes how different Colorado agriculture is from other states in addition to the intricate nature of water rights in the headwater state.
Greenberg's previous post with the National Young Farmers Coalition involved transitioning the next generation to the farm and that remains a passion for her.
"No one person comes from everywhere, right," she said. "No matter where you come from, you're going to have to learn how things are done in other places. Having that shared desire to keep getting future generations on the land is going to be one of those important points of connection no matter where we all come from." ❖
— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 392-4410.