Culver's Mitch Adams new state FFA treasurer

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - New state FFA officers are, from left, Ian Oppenlander, president; Brecklin Milton, vice president; Kylee Fisher, secretary; Mitchell Adams, treasurer; Collin Matthias, reporter; and Meghan Stadell, sentinal.After three days of grilling interviews and voting by delegates, Ian Oppenlander of Madras was elected the new president of the Oregon FFA, and Mitch Adams, of Culver, won the state treasurer’s position.

Oppenlander said he’d been campaigning to run for an FFA office since he was a freshman at Madras High School by participating in leadership camps and state fairs. He served as the Madras Chapter president for two years, and this year as the Central Oregon District president.

“It helps to be a district officer because of the teamwork experience, and because your name is known throughout the state,” he said.

This year, the State FFA Convention was held March 21-24 in Bend, and Oppenlander explained the highly competitive process required to win an office.

In FFA, members don’t select an office to run for. Thirty candidates from all over the state competed for six positions, and a committee picked a “slate” of officers to recommend, and suggested who should be assigned to which position. There are 12 FFA districts in the state and the committee is made up of one member from each district.

Candidates go through three days of intensive interviews to narrow down the field.

The first day, Oppenlander said, there was a “round robin” interview, for the committee to get to know the candidates, then a “behavioral interview,” where thye had to answer six questions in seven minutes about themselves and their ideals.

Next was a mock scenario. “Mine was a person who didn’t want anything to do with FFA and I had to try to convince them to get involved in FFA,” he said. That night the field was pared down to 15 candidates.

The second day began with a “stakeholder” interview with another scenario. “I was supposed to meet with a business person and explain the benefits of FFA, why they should support FFA, and how it was beneficial for their business,” Oppenlander said.

The next test was “extemporaneous public speaking,” which Oppenlander said was “definitely the scariest part of the process for me.” Candidates had been given 15 topics to study prior to the convention. That day, they were handed a topic and had 10 minutes to compose and present a three to four minute speech about it.

A team activity followed, in which they were randomly paired with two other candidates and told to prepare a workshop in seven minutes for a certain situation. “The object was to see how we work together with others and who would take leadership roles and could think on their feet,” Oppenlander said, adding, “I really liked that one.”

Moving on, they had to do an impromptu reading of a script. “It had misspelled words in it and hard names to pronounce, and I struggled with the script reading,” he admitted.

The day wrapped up with a “behavioral interview” during which candidates were asked to tell about real life situations, how they handled them, and what the outcome was.

Each candidate was also asked what their ideal slate would be for president, secretary, treasurer, reporter and sentinel. Then the nominating committee deliberated and selected the top 10 candidates.

“They look for who will work well together. They’re trying to pick the best team, not the best individuals,” Oppenlander pointed out.

As they sweated it out, Oppenlander and Mitchel Adams from Culver both received letters congratulating them on being finalists, and telling them to be ready to give a two-minute speech at 7 a.m.

The next day, in front of a gym packed with 2,000 FFA members, with another 1,000 watching on screens in other rooms, Oppenlander said, “I gave my speech and then it was all in the hands of the delegation, and was all done by electronic voting.”

“I was sweating and so nervous. Then I saw my name pop up on the screen as president and I sprinted up on stage and gave a flying-leap hug to the last president,” Oppenlander laughed.

But his work wasn’t over. He was immediately escorted off stage and put to work writing a farewell speech to the outgoing president. Soon, Adams also came in and Oppenlander found out his friend had been elected treasurer.

The two had attended elementary school together at Westside before Adams moved to Culver. “He was the Central Oregon vice president and we worked closely together in FFA last year, so this will be fun,” Oppenlander said. Two days later, the new officers were off to their first training in Corvallis.

Being a state FFA officer means delaying college plans for a year. Oppenlander had been accepted at OSU and had received a scholarship, but both are now on hold.

State FFA duties

As state FFA president he and the other officers tour the state visiting every high school with agricultural education to give leadership workshops. During the year, they put on leadership camps for chapter officers covering teamwork and communication skills.

Future career doors are opened to officers as they go on tours of ag-related businesses and industries all across the state. They represent Oregon FFA at events, including conventions in Washington, D.C., Louisville, Kent., and an Idaho gathering for Northwest officers.

“And we get to go somewhere out of the country with state officers from all across the U.S. They haven’t announced the country yet, but they’ve gone to South Africa, Chile, and China in the past to learn about the culture and have fun,” Oppenlander said.

Finally, at the end of the year, they organize and conduct the state convention, which will be in Silverton next year.

As for his college plans after his year as state FFA president, Oppenlander said, “I want to study business and some sort of agriculture. I enjoy it all, so I don’t know my niche yet.”

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