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By: Tyler Koch, Texas FFA Director of Leadership
June 15, 2016

On the morning of June 7, 2016, State President Jason Edmondson lowered the gavel at the conclusion of the Texas FFA State Leadership Conference. As Conference Chair, Kaylynn Kiker delivered her closing comments to the collective of 74 Texas FFA Area Officers, there were feelings of pride among the State Officers, accomplishment among the attendees, and relief among the Texas FFA staff. It had worked. 

After decades of history with coordinating State Leadership Conference (SLC) in more of a “camp” environment, the 2015-2016 Texas FFA Officer team faced a challenge of innovating the status quo of the expected SLC delivery. This challenge was one that had been tossed around, talked around, cussed and discussed, all in preparation for the right time, and the right team to deliver results. The 2015-2016 team seemed to be the logical choice; because, let’s face it, they were elected through innovation. This team was a product of an intense redesign in the State Officer election process, which served as a platform for their pursuit of each process encountered throughout the year. 

Texas FFA Executive Director, Tom Maynard, said “We’d discussed the transition of State Leadership Conference for a while now, and just never have had the right things or people in place to make it happen. Once we committed to the concept of making a move, we ripped the band-aid off the old way, and there was no turning back.” 

The “band-aid” was the idea that the “C” in SLC stood for camp, and therefore implied that it should be conducted in camp setting. Mr. Maynard reached out to Jake Paine, a longtime supporter of the Texas FFA and Global Sales Director for our corporate partner, La Quinta Inns and Suites, to get the ball rolling on a new venue. The prime location of the La Quinta Capitol in downtown Austin was booked, and the Texas FFA was committed. 

The state officers and staff began to put the pieces together and design the look and feel of the conference- driven by one simple concept: Begin with the end in mind. 

Texas FFA staff asked themselves, “At the conclusion of SLC, when the officers are returning to their areas, what knowledge, skills, and abilities, do we want them to depart with?” 

With this guiding principle in mind, the officers set out to develop the most comprehensive and targeted curriculum in the history of SLC; with every component tying back to the Texas FFA’s support of Local Program Success. 

Thankfully, the Texas FFA has been able to develop an expansive network of Austin relationships, which has equipped an unconventional amount of access to the Capitol Building, to include conducting a business session in the incomparable chamber of the Texas Senate. This year’s SLC was both content rich and quality focused, with a dynamic lineup of speakers (featuring world renowned Paul Moya, Sports Broadcaster Casey Hogan, Ilissa Nolan and Dan Hunter from Texas Department of Agriculture, Master Facilitator Allison Grainger, Tom Rousse from Limetree Marketing, and former U.S. Congressman Bill Sarpalius), skills-based workshops, expert panels, and comprehensive periods of instruction demonstrating the latest tools available for chapter development. The attendees were given tools to reproduce the quality of training received and challenged to utilize the network of contacts throughout the state of Texas to continue their improvement both personally and professionally. 

The Executive Director of the Texas FFA had a vision for what SLC “should be,” the 2015-2016 State Officer Team proved, loudly and clearly, just how good SLC “could be.” State Leadership Conference was a snapshot of the caliber of training that all future leadership development endeavors will be. The creativity and innovation within the Texas FFA will not be limited to SLC for long, as our opportunities to continue facilitating world class programs and dynamic events are truly infinite.