My Next Elevator Ride

Sitting in the big leather chairs on the floor of the House of Representatives, my Ag Leadership classmates and I were invited to ask questions of California Congressman turned lobbyist Cal Dooley.

“Congressman,” I asked, “Can you talk about how you felt on your first day in the Capitol and how you felt on the last day?” Not interested in his job description or accomplishments, I wanted to know what thoughts were in his head, what his heart felt.

Less than three years later – albeit on a smaller scale – I was elected to office and experienced many of the same feelings he had shared with us in Washington, DC: responsibility, awe, and appreciation for the privilege of leadership.

The day I rode the elevator up to the Board chambers on my first day as a county supervisor I told myself, Teri, never forget how you feel today. One day you’ll measure it against your feelings on the last day.

I spent a single term in office representing our rural voice and standing for the people I served. I applied lots of elbow grease, sincerity, and integrity – my constituents got their money’s worth. In between coming in and going out though there were a whole lot of other feelings. Four years later, leaving of my own volition to be the change I needed to be, my idealism was tempered (but not totally extirpated) by reality and hard-fought experience.

I wrote to my successor:

“…I had to learn where bodies are buried (and who buried them), how to balance my agenda with others’ motivated by distinct convictions and dreams, and I had yet to experience the level of public scrutiny that comes with being a county supervisor.  I had no idea how much I could give, how much I could take, and upon which hills I would ultimately be willing to die. I do now.”

It was exhilarating and exhausting. Exciting and tedious. In short, it was everything and nothing I ever dreamed. I did it until I felt I had nothing left to give beyond being a figurehead, a placeholder. I needed to do more. So I left my home state and moved to Idaho to take a job leading the Soil and Water Conservation Commission.

Our office was then on the bottom floor so my first elevator ride was metaphorical. I left local government to join state government where there was a whole new level of accomplishments and challenges. But this time rather than just tell people that farmers and ranchers are good stewards of the land, I would give them tools to be so. I felt responsibility, awe, and appreciation for the privilege of leadership. Exhilaration and excitement.

Over the last ten years I’ve met (and cared deeply for) some of the best people in the world. Wonderful District supervisors and staff have shared their hopes, thoughts, rides in trucks on dusty roads, and some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. Working with legislators like Maxine Bell, Shawn Keough, Bert Brackett, and others too many to name here was an honor.

My organizational honeymoon was brief though. Any idealism was soon dispatched by history and the things I experienced (and disliked) as a supervisor – buried bodies, power struggles, and critical scrutiny. It’s been a hard job, but year by year we applied elbow grease, sincerity, and integrity to every challenge we faced. My Commissioners, Districts, the Legislature, and two Governors more than got their money’s worth from this girl. Eventually, everything that would allow itself to be improved was. I’m proud of what we’ve done and the way we’ve pulled together – partners, Board, and staff.

Here I am again though. I find myself needing to be the change I need to be somewhere else. So on June 11th, after a decade with the state, I’ll take the elevator ride down for the last time as the administrator of the Idaho Soil and Water Conservation Commission.

This is how that feels.

I’m sad and happy, exhilarated and exhausted. We’ve outlasted critics and naysayers. We’ve improved relationships with every willing partner. We’ve done some incredible work. This job has been both everything and nothing I ever dreamed, and once again I’m left with precious little left to give to this job.

We’ve worked hard, the Board, my staff, and I, to lay the groundwork for a seamless transition. Lord willin’ and the creeks don’t rise, the staff of the Commission will continue to serve Districts, the State of Idaho, farmers and ranchers, and Idahoans for another 80+ years.

Me? I’m ready for my next elevator ride.

21 thoughts on “My Next Elevator Ride

      1. Thank you for being there and for always being one of the good ones. You will be missed. I’m glad you’re a neighbor! We do need to get together!

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  1. Beautifully said, and I love that you don’t let things hold you back from doing what you feel called to do. God Bless you and hugs friend.

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  2. Thank you for this Teri! The question you asked the Congressman sounded like something I would like to know from someone like him. Not so much about what you did, goals you accomplished, but more about how did you feel, how might it have changed you.

    Thank you so much for your writings. I love your perspective and your wisdom. You are doing great work!

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  3. I remember the phone call of introduction and your invite for lunch so we could become better acquainted. Where did they time go. It seems like that just happened last summer, not ten years ago. It has been fun to share many experiences together through the years. I am confident that the next ride will be something that peaks your passion and offers challenge and excitement but also involves people. Thanks for the times we have shared and the conversations thorough the years. May your journey continue to be rewarding and fulfilling for you as a person.

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  4. Wow! Seems like yesterday when we first bumped into each other. Your wisdom, courage, and eloquence have been an inspiration for me over the years. Dont be a stranger and please do drop in if ever you’re in my neck of the woods. Be well and tremendous luck with your next elevator ride!

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    1. You got it! It was a happy day when we connected, my friend! Likewise, if you get down here, I want to see you. Best wishes to my NASCA friends and especially the Washington gang! Give my best to Clark next time you speak.

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  5. Teri, we hate to see you go. You brought NASCA to Idaho, and vice versa. You made many wonderful contributions to this organization. We’ll miss you, and remember, you’ll always have friends at NASCA! May the future smile on you!

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  6. A much deserved break! Thank you for always having a smile on your face and making me feel comfortable in meetings, workshops etc. because you were so approachable. You did many great things for the Districts and I thank you.
    God Bless you in your next adventure.
    Barb

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  7. Elbow grease, sincerity, and integrity have been your calling cards since I’ve known you. And I know you’ll apply them in your next endeavor. I’m living proof you can go “home” again, and it can be exhilarating, rewarding, and challenging. I pray you find the same sense of adventure at your next stop. If you’re so inclined, California could really use your knowledge and skills as we seek to solve centuries-old water issues.

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