The second meeting of MFB’s 2019 Political Academy brought its eight participants to Lansing in late February to continue their education in the finer arts of seeking, managing and succeeding in the world of elected political office.
Michigan Supreme Court Associate Justice Beth Clement spoke with participants about the state constitution; media training came courtesy of Kyle Melinn, a reporter with MIRS, a Lansing-based media outlet that specializes in covering state government.
Kate Thiel, development manager for the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture, led a workshop on public speaking on the second day of the session. Afterwards, a pair of participants shared their impressions.
Erin Humm is currently in her third term as president of the Gratiot County Farm Bureau. The Breckenridge-area cash crop farmer is finding the program worthwhile for the networking connections it provides and its crash course in the fundamentals of seeking elected office.
“I’ve enjoyed serving on the county Farm Bureau board,” Humm said, adding that it’s made her very conscious of the time commitment leadership roles come with.
While her current top priority is motherhood, Humm said she can see herself vying for some local-level offices as an extension of that same priority.
“Being a mom comes first, but part of that is wanting to maintain the quality of the community I’m raising my children in,” she said, noting interest in township and county offices as well as the local school board.
“I really think that’s something we ought to be doing more of. Sometimes we have more ways to change and improve our local government than we would at the state level.”
Allegan County’s Chris Machiela is considering a run for an office every farmer—for better or for worse—is familiar with: drain commissioner. With a day job in the water resources trade and a small hobby farm at home, he’s confident he can do justice to the position with a little help from Farm Bureau.
“This program is so educational,” he said, noting a session he’d just completed covering the fundamentals of public speaking. “That’s important stuff, working with the public. One thing they’ve impressed upon us is the importance of going door to door if you want to get elected—and you can’t do that if you can’t speak with people.”
Other guest speakers included Stu Sandler and Jamie Roe from Grand River Strategies on the ABC’s of Campaigning; Heather Lombardini of the Sterling Corporation on political fundraising; Eric Walcott, a government and public policy specialist from MSU, on local government; Ben Gielczyk of the House Fiscal Agency on the financial side of lawmaking; and Dan Wyant from the Edward Lowe Foundation on policy development.
This Political Academy class will convene twice more: in mid-March coincident with MFB’s Washington Legislative Seminar, then a final session at Farm Bureau Center in April.