By Jennifer McDaniel, for the Lincoln Sentinel
When Dawn Dolezal was hired with the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Russell County office in July 1987, she thought the job would be short-lived.
Fresh out of college, Dolezal was approached by a local county committee member who mentioned an opening for a crop technician. Needing a job, she decided to apply.
But soon, the notion the job would be temporary faded away; Dolezal realized she loved working in the field, side by side with local producers.
“(And) 29 years later, here I am,” she said.
But after nearly three decades in the Russell office, Dolezal decided to take a chance, which eventually landed her the job as executive director of the Lincoln County FSA office. Dolezal fills a vacancy created when former county executive director Bill Wineinger stepped down in 2015 after accepting another job.
“The county executive director position is something that has been in the back of my mind for a lot of years,” she said. “After serving as a program technician for 28 years in Russell County, I was ready for a new role and was very fortunate to be selected to fill this position. I’m very excited to be here in Lincoln County.”
“After 28 years, I was ready for a new role. The kids were grown, and I felt it was something I wanted to do. It was just the right time.”
Dolezal’s journey to Lincoln County started last fall when she learned the state farm agency was accepting candidates for its county operations trainee program. Interested, she submitted her application, and was selected a few weeks later.
For the next six months, she trained in various counties throughout Kansas, including Mitchell County, where she shadowed executive director Jamie Powell. At the time, Powell also served as interim executive director for Lincoln County.
After successfully completing the program earlier this year, Dolezal began interviewing for executive director openings across the state, including those in Lincoln and Ellsworth counties in August.
After accepting the job offer, Dolezal started in the Ellsworth office September 6, a period, she said, allowed her to get her footing, before starting in the Lincoln office in November.
In her new role as executive director, Dolezal manages the day-to-day operations of the office, which serves as the direct link between the agency and the producer. Among her other responsibilities are working closely with the farmer-elected county committee, administering and interpreting agency and county committee policies and overseeing all commodity production and other programs established by the Farm Bill.
And while she’s still getting comfortable in her new role in a new county, the subject of farming is anything but unfamiliar for Dolezal.
As a young girl, she grew up on the family farm east of Wilson. After graduating from the local high school, Dolezal went on to Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina. Today, she lives with her husband, John, on their farm south of Wilson. Together, they manage a crop and livestock operation which extends into Ellsworth and Russell counties. Their two adult sons, Curtis and Colby, both Kansas State University graduates, help with the farming operation.
Just weeks into the job, Dolezal said she’s already at ease – something she attributes to her staff, which consists of three employees at each location.
“I have an experienced and knowledgeable staff, and that really helps me in my position,” she said. “It certainly makes my job easier. I couldn’t ask for a better staff, and I think the producers know that.”
Because the position requires her to split her time between both offices, Dolezal is in Lincoln on Monday and Wednesday and Ellsworth Tuesday and Thursday. With no set location on Friday, she’s usually in the office where’s she needed most.
“I’ve enjoyed meeting all the wonderful farmers and ranchers here in Lincoln County,” she said. “Farmers are just great people to work with. When you think of all the things farmers deal with that are outside their control, such as weather or low market prices, and yet, they come into the office and are pleasant to work with and joke with the staff – they’re great.”