This Year I'll Be Doing It Differently
Retiring (again). But not really.
If you think last year was jammed packed with Doing It!, wait until you see 2024. Last year I traveled and wrote a lot: Uganda, St. Gertrude's Monastery, Calfornia, Oregon (several times), England…and while I wish this year promised a repeat, the truth is that I don't know. That feels good and that feels scary. In six months I'm stepping off another elevator ride (see below for the last time I did it), one I've enjoyed for the last 2 1/2 years, to do life differently again.
I'm retiring from my part time gig with the Idaho Coalition of Land Trusts, the job I took when I learned that I could retire but couldn't bear to not be doing anything. This time feels different though because we’re building something together at Teri’s Doing It! This time I’m not so much leaving something as going toward something. Carpe diem in action.
This year will be hard, bifurcated, but will be worth it. There'll be a Before July 1st and an After. The Before will involve business as usual.
Before me tomorrow lies my 13th state legislative session in Idaho. Even with the considerable dysfunction there these days, I’ll miss it. Even with the way too many hours I’ll put in trying to stay on top of who’s doing what to whom, I'll miss knowing the back stories, I'll miss the breakfasts and lunches and dinners, the hearings, the trips downtown to meet with Food Producers, the gorgeous statehouse, and too many Zoom meetings. Government stuff fascinates me - I was a Political Science major, after all.
Too, I’ll miss working with my ICOLT Board and Executive Committee, the Policy Committee, and the members, with our (mostly) trusted partners, and two of the best in the business, Peter Stegner and Kari Kostka. Kari and I have a combined 26 years of experience working in state government and with the legislature, much of that earned together, first with sister state agencies, and then in the trenches with ICOLT. We speak the same language, know where the bodies are buried.
Kari’s predecessor at The Nature Conservancy and mine at ICOLT was wonderful Will Whelan (who won’t miss my alliterative effort). I won’t miss Will because he set us up to succeed and then let us do our jobs. I won’t miss extremists who clearly don’t get government - what it takes to lead and serve all the people, even those with whom they disagree. I won’t miss the tension of having the legislators in town, knowing that anything could happen (but better not).
My time with ICOLT has gone by swiftly and we’ve accomplished much. The land trust community has forged a partnership with the Agricultural community, my peeps, because as the state has grown, important Ag lands have been the first to be developed. That, more than anything, has made me a strong supporter of conservation easements. Idaho is starting to pay attention and Farm Bureau has been working hard to address that by developing new tools to help producers stay on working lands. Hurrah! Preserving special things - Ag, open space, habitat, wildlife, and more - is important as the world spins underneath our feet. It’s important to our quality of life and important to the Idaho economy.
Organizationally, ICOLT has grown too. My position increased from 1/2 to 3/4 time and to tell the truth, could really use a full time executive director. We updated our bylaws, did a lot of planning, and made a number of important structural changes to be more efficient and effective. We stood up a successful program to help land trusts increase the amount of Farm Bill funding coming to Idaho in the ag easements program (ACEP ALE) from ~$3MM a year in FY 2023 to over $17 MM (applied for) this year. And as I've found is the case, because of ICOLT’s recent success, we’re being asked to take on more.
But while I thrive on this stuff and there’s still so much to do and many challenges ahead, I have little left in me for this job (just like the last time I retired). So, the next 6 months will allow me to prepare ICOLT to be handed to someone who does. I’ll try to pause and savor the time left from time to time. Yet even as I walk through Before, I'm straining toward After.
Last year was a taste of what life can be if I let go and jump into the unknown. I want to write more, travel more, and seek answers to questions unfettered by job responsibilities. In the last few months I’ve realized that while I’ve been occupied with important and meaningful work, life is passing me by. The amount of time left on the big stopwatch in the sky is shrinking every day. So while I let go with one hand I’m grabbing with the other. I’ve become passionate about seizing the day. My day.
I’m also about igniting a passion for Doing It! in you and I've launched a podcast to that end. It's the most fun I’ve had in ever so long. For the next 6 months while I learn this new craft I'm releasing one free episode a month where I have conversations with others who are chasing their passions: people like Roots Africa's founder Cedric Nwafor, my friend and travel writer and photographer Timathea Workman, and former Ag strategist and Mayor of Meridian Jan and Tammy De Weerd. And those are just the ones I’ve got in the can so far.
I’m excited to be lining up others too: a couple who haven’t yet retired but have fostered more than 145 black labs in the last decade, the indefatigable, ebullient Steve Steubner, journalist, outdoor enthusiast, and small businessman (I fondly call him a beast because that man's got no quit in him), and many others. I want to travel at least as much in the last half of the year as I did last year. I have a It’s Not Too Late list of my own that wants doing. Badly. So, all that is to say that this year I’m doing things differently.
I’ve ridden elevators up and down in my lifetime. Each ride takes me up another notch, teaches me a lot, fills me (until it doesn’t), and brings me back down ready to take the next elevator. Only this time, there’s no next elevator. It’s just me stepping outside into the great wide unknown. I’m not scared. I’m taking you with me. Carpe diem!
Thanks for all you’ve meant to me at ICOLT, the Commission, on Ada County P&Z and in Eagle, at Tuolumne County, MCAG, and elsewhere over the years. I’m retiring (again) but I’m not done. I’ll just be just doing life differently from July on. Spread the word, please.
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