An Open Letter to Arizona Department of Agriculture's Selection Committee
Attention: Chairman Hemminghaus and Members Bell, Pacheco, Smith and Manos
During the first meeting of the Selection Committee, to recommend candidates to the Governor for the Director of the Arizona Department of Agriculture, I sensed a high premium on a Director who could promote and market the image of Arizona agriculture. Respectfully, I disagree. The Director promotes Arizona agriculture as a by-product of the process. The discussion matters because you are tasked with forming a list for the Governor of the ”most qualified.”
I interacted extensively with all three previous Directors of the ADA, and was the chief deputy for one. In other times, I worked in the Ohio Governor’s Office and the Director’s Office for the Ohio Department of Agriculture. This should give me credibility as to understanding job requirements for Director.
These comments speak to qualifications and do not flow to any candidate. I have personal and professional experience with two of the applicants on your current list. One is a colleague, and I used to supervise the other. But due to current and future working relationships, if you ask me any question as to any candidate, there will be no answer.
The very best thing the ADA can do for Arizona agriculture is to regulate with integrity – otherwise markets, other states, other countries and the public have no faith in the licensing of the department. Faith in licensing is in the broadest sense and speaks to commodity integrity, disease control, product liability, food safety and other protections for the public.
Integrity of operations begins with administrative skills. Indeed, the statute speaks of experience and the word “management”, in this context, appears three times. And then the negotiating of the politics of administration within the whole interlay of reporting to the Governor, interaction with the legislature and bureaucratic process, to say nothing of the alphabet soup of state and federal agencies, is like a mine field in a maze. Added to the mix are the public relations and diplomatic challenges with the public and peers.
Let’s also keep our wants in line with our wherewithal, as there is no budget for marketing or promotion of Arizona agriculture and it is not going to arrive. So apart from individual performance and character and a Director’s standing amongst peers, do not assign the Director further expectations which will not be fulfilled.
The Director can stand for Arizona agriculture, but cannot carry it. Let the markets and their advocates market. Bring the aforementioned management skills, do the job with integrity and this will advance Arizona agriculture.