A Buckeye, Arizona Dairy Farmer just appointed to the state Senate credits a UA Cooperative Extension rural leadership program with helping her prepare for her new position.
Sine Kerr says Project CENTRL – or, the Center for Rural Leadership- has equipped her for the political arena in Legislative District 13.
“I’m on the natural resources, energy, and water committee as well as the transportation and technology committee, and a lot of what I learned at Project CENTRL will be incredibly useful as part of those committees– dealing with agriculture, infrastructure and rural issues,” Kerr said.
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors appointed Kerr to replace former state Sen. Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park.
She was a part of Class 22 of UA Cooperative Extension’s Project CENTRL, which organizers say builds personal leadership skills, educates on issues facing rural Arizona, and connects leaders to each other and experts.
The program is a competitively selected tuition-free, 12-month leadership development program. Each class has 16 people, and visits different sites throughout the state, once a month, also including a seminar in Mexico and in Washington, D.C.
“The valuable part of Project CENTRL is the ‘hands-on’ part. Being out in the feedlot for example, or going out to the farm and learning about their drip irrigation system. Not only did we attend seminars, but we got to go out and see and touch and learn all about rural issues,” Kerr said.
Learning about rural issues, as well as bringing together people from a variety of experiences is central to Project CENTRL.
“We try to get a diverse group in the sense of geography, production agriculture and other backgrounds. As we teach problem-solving skills, the diversity of thought is crucial,” says Scott Koenig, Executive Director of Project CENTRL.
“In the current class, we have a dairy farmer, the deputy town manager of Prescott Valley, the Coconino County H.R. Director, Eastern Arizona College capital accountant, we have a Page City Council member a rancher from Southern Arizona and the Yuma County Director of Public Health,” said Koenig.
The program is in part, funded today by an endowment and donations in partnership with the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Cooperative Extension. It was originally developed in 1978 as a joint venture with the Arizona Farm Bureau and Cooperative Extension, whose mission is to engage with people through applied research and education.
”The Project CENTRL program functions in a manner consistent with the Cooperative Extension mission of connecting the university to the people in all sectors of the state and bringing knowledge and expertise to bear on practical problems and issues,” said Jeff Silvertooth, Associate Dean and Director of Arizona Cooperative Extension.
Some of the graduates of the program include some of Kerr’s current colleagues in the state House and Senate, including Sen. Gail Griffin, Sen. Frank Pratt, Rep. Drew John and Rep. Becky Nutt.
Other graduates include Coconino County Supervisor Jim Parks and Town of Miami Mayor Daryl Dalley.
“The program has a tremendous record of contributing to the development of outstanding leadership skills for a large number of graduates who now serve very capably in key leadership positions across the state,” Silvertooth said.
Applications for this year’s Class 27 are due March 15.