Nobody likes being The New Guy, but there’s a humble art to pulling it off smartly and merging smoothly into the traffic of one’s new environment: Introduce yourself. Firm handshake. Ask questions — but not too many — and listen more than you talk.
Mike Bozung knows all this and comports himself accordingly. Even as president of the Van Buren County Farm Bureau, he understands his new-guy status dilutes some of the authority of the gavel he brought home from presidents’ conference back in January.
If that weren’t challenging enough, Bozung is also a relative newcomer to the area itself — an émigré from the Belding neighborhood of northwestern Ionia County. He’s been on the ground here outside Bangor for about 10 years now, working 40 head of red angus cattle and raising about 800 acres of corn, soybeans and hay.
“My wife Casey grew up here — this is her family’s farm,” said Bozung. “Her grandparents farmed it but her parents opted to rent the land instead.”
As a transplanted farmer, Bozung’s first order of business has been building trust among his new neighbors, especially the landowners as he strives to expand his crop acreage. The same easygoing demeanor serving him well in those conversations is also endearing him to the leaders around Van Buren’s board table.
“First I’m just familiarizing myself with the membership,” he said, and cautiously testing the waters of engaging members beyond those quickly familiar faces.
“We want to expand involvement beyond the board of directors,” he said. “Things are running pretty well already. We want to keep our good programs moving forward, attract new members and build interest in the organization.”
Even seasoned leaders, though, will tell you that’s easier said than done. Bozung knows that sort of progress involves being open to forging and building new relations.
To that end he’s striving to build a more inclusive feel and empower board members to stretch their involvement beyond voting ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ at meetings — building leadership in others and strengthening Van Buren’s “depth chart.”
In the meantime, most of the county’s traditional and well-received activities will stay on the docket, including the annual Blossomtime Tour, AgVenture tent at the county fair and Bangor Apple Fest, and the county’s summer legislative dinner.