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Best of NAMA 2023

Even (r) and Northey

by Bill Even, CEO, National Pork Board, Des Moines, IA

Some thoughts on the passing of my friend and mentor Bill Northey.

Bill and his wonderful wife Cindy have been important people in my life. While we always wish for that one last chance to tell someone how much they mean to us, I want to take this opportunity to speak to Cindy so that she may carry our love and appreciation forward.

I was blessed to first meet Bill in the spring of 2007. He was the newly elected Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, and I was just appointed as South Dakota's Secretary of Agriculture. We were at our first meeting of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. In this random hotel restaurant, a man with an open smile and sincere handshake came up, introduced himself and made me feel welcome.

I had met Bill.

We talked for nearly two hours. Two Midwestern farm kids were now public servants. In the months and years that followed, Bill taught me what being a true public servant really meant.

Bill was the real deal. Genuine. Honest. Curious. Kind. Principled. Thoughtful. Dedicated. He and Cindy sacrificed their time and money to volunteer for a number of causes to support and advance agriculture in their community, state and nation. Days, weeks, months, years away from home, away from the farm, away from family. New adventures, but all in service to others.

Bill cared. He cared for farmers and ranchers, for their success, for growing food, for making government and humanity better. I have lost track of the times I would seek his advice and counsel, and he was never shy from calling me for advice in return. Bill understood the importance of listening to people as a leader, balancing competing interests and making good decisions and good policy through consensus building, not petty politics.

There are days now where I look around and see the need for principled citizenship and competent leadership in all walks of life. And I think back to that summer evening with Bill and Cindy sitting with my wife and I enjoying a home-cooked meal at our kitchen table in Iowa. Talking for hours about kids and grandkids. About farming and policy. About history and our nation.

Oh, how Bill loved our country.

So, Cindy, I want you to know how much Bill's work, mentorship and friendship meant to me. The example he set for all of us in agriculture, in our communities and in public service looms large and I will continue to do my best to follow it every day.

We are better people for knowing you both.

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