Part of the team
Goodhue County Soil and Water Conservation District Board member Paul Voxland said everything the organization does is a group effort.
“It’s not a one-person deal,” he said last week in a conference room at the SWCD office in Goodhue. “We worked as a team and acted as a team.”
But fellow board members and staff will have to learn to work without him next year when Voxland, 75, ends his 28-year run as the District 1 supervisor.
Voxland announced his decision in May not to run for re-election, bringing to a close 48 consecutive years of board service that also included church, 4-H, Farm Bureau and Pork Producers.
In his nearly three decades as supervisor, Voxland said he played a role in guiding SWCD through a number of big changes.
“The organization that we had then is nothing compared to what we have here now,” he said, recalling an office with two full-time employees and a bookkeeper. Staff has since expanded to six: the county water planner, feedlot officer, district manager, two district technicians and an administrative assistant.
He said his first years on the board were focused on administrative tasks such as bringing pay equity for SWCD workers and adding a district manager position.
“That has been a real positive thing for us,” he said, “and we’ve got stability within our employees.”
Voxland also said he is proud of the strong working relationship SWCD has developed with Goodhue County and its Board of Commissioners, which meets with them once or twice a year.
“Not only do both boards work well together, but staff from both organizations have come to rely on each other,” Goodhue County Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel said. “This comes from having leaders like Paul Voxland, who can see the big picture and focus on shared goals.”
“His experience and knowledge of our county will be sorely missed come January,” Rechtzigel added.
Goodhue SWCD is part of the Minnesota Soil and Water Conservation District program, born out of a nationwide conservation effort during the Dust Bowl era. The districts work with local governments and landowners on projects to maintain land and water resources.
Goodhue County offerings include supplying tree bundles for conservation projects, a state cost-sharing program for landowners and low-interest AgBMP loans for work to reduce feedlot runoff.
Voxland, who studied production agriculture at the University of Minnesota in the late 1950s, worked for years with his father on the family’s sesquicentennial farm in Holden Township.
He quit farming due to health problems, but took a position a couple years ago driving bus for Kenyon-Wanamingo School District.
“I’ve got a reputation of being a hard-nosed bus driver,” Voxland said with a chuckle, adding that he likes to channel his drill sergeant from his days in the Army to keep the children in line.
With two candidates vying to replace him on the SWCD Board in elections this fall, Voxland has one piece of advice for the winner: “Be a listener.”
“You’re not out there selling the projects,” he said. “It’s best that you have good employees, turn them loose and stay out of their way.”