Some of you may already know, but I have some news… I have a new job. Let this article serve as my formal declaration that my last day working for the Madison County Conservation Board will be Friday, April 22 which, fittingly, is Earth Day. This is a very bittersweet announcement as I have enjoyed my four years here immensely. As I sit here writing this from a desk in an office, it seems like another normal day writing an article for the local paper but most of you know that this job was anything but ordinary. As a matter of fact, it was rather extraordinary.
Madison County wasn’t the first full time county conservation position that I applied or even interviewed for but it was the office, the staff and the community that saw something in me that I’m not sure I had even yet seen in myself. I remember coming into the office and feeling a bit silly and uncomfortable in my business-casual interview clothes. I sat down, was offered a cup of coffee and told Jim Liechty and Steve Pearson a little bit about me.
I had interned with the Black Hawk County Conservation Board when I was going to school at Northern Iowa as an Earth Science student and had interned with the Cerro Gordo County Conservation Board in Mason City while living at my grandparent’s house in Clear Lake. I was currently working in the private sector for a small environmental consulting company in Ankeny and wanted to break into the full time world of environmental education and outreach. My passion for science education, my energy and organizational skills and my willingness to work long hours for very little money must have been encouraging because as they each took their turns showing me around town and later the parks, we all seemed to be getting along pretty well. After Jim called a few days later to offer me the job, I immediately started crying, called my dad and said “dreams really do come true.”
It’s hard not to get emotional about work that I have loved in a community that has embraced me with open arms to the point where I no longer feel like an outsider. I love heading into the classroom to dissect owl pellets. I love getting classes out in the parks to test water quality and catch tadpoles. I love leading fossil hikes for scout groups and passing the salamander around a 4-H meeting. I love taking furs into the retirement homes and discussing what a lovely (yet no longer appropriate) coat they would make. I love coming home at the end of the day smelling like smoke from a long day of timber burning. I love meeting new people and learning new things and listening to the jokes of kindergartners. I love feeling like I’m making a difference and I hope that my work has been as meaningful for the kids and families and classrooms and individuals of Madison County as it has been for me. I can’t express just how meaningful it has been for me. I put my heart into my work and have gotten back so much love and support from all of you. Thank you. Thank you so much for the incredible opportunity to serve this incredible county.
My next adventure will take me all around the state, but will be based out of Des Moines. I have accepted the position of full-time Executive Director for Iowa Rivers Revival. Iowa Rivers Revival (IRR) is a non-profit statewide leader in river education and advocacy and is committed to protecting some of our most precious natural resources – our rivers and streams. IRR works to engage individuals, organizations, communities, and government leaders in river awareness, responsibility, and enjoyment to improve and enhance the condition of Iowa waterways – ensuring a quality, safe and lasting resource for future generations (check us out at www.iowarivers.org).
I am very much looking forward to this next adventurous chapter. I was not looking to make a career change but a new road has diverged in the wood and I must continue to take the one less traveled. This was not an easy decision or one that was taken or considered lightly. It is, however, the right decision. It is time to take a risk, utilize a new skill sets and set a statewide example for citizens, landowners, politicians, students and all of you when it comes to understanding and taking care of our most precious resource; water.
I’m not going to disappear. I will still live in Des Moines (it’s really not that far away, I promise). I’ll be back for the Middle River Cleanup and the Evening Under the Stars fundraiser and the Covered Bridge Festival. I’ll make sure that people know how to get a hold of me and hopefully will be back to do some river restoration on our own Middle River Water Trail in the not too distant future.
Really, I guess the point of all this is to say thank you. I am so very proud of the work that I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of these last four years. It’s been an honor and a joy to come to work with Jim and Steve and Terry every day. It feels like family. It feels like home. And now it’s time to spread my wings and leave the nest. I have full confidence that the work we’ve done will be continued with and improved upon by the next eager and capable naturalist. Madison County is an amazing place to work and play and I will miss it and all of you very much.
Remember to get out, get dirty and have an adventure in the parks every now and then.
Happy Earth Day and Happy Trails!