One man and his passion for Iowa’s agriculture led to a life of dedicated service. Bill Northey, Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture, spoke about his career in public service with a crowd of about 20 students and faculty Feb. 12 at the John C. Culver Public Policy Center.
Northey is a 1981 Iowa State University graduate who went back home to farm after college. He learned a lot from working on the family farm, and dabbled with politics as he watched his father be involved with various agriculture associations.
Northey has a strong line of family members involved in organizations including Iowa Farm Bureau and Iowa Corn Growers. He admired his grandfather’s work with these organizations and he saw the “rewarding nature and influence of public service,” Northey said.
“Being able to influence what happens is important. My father was elected County Supervisor and he probably had more of an impact on people than I will. Being closely connected with people of the county where everyone knows you was a rewarding experience for my father and I watched how rewarding that was,” Northey said.
Northey described the current state of Iowa agriculture in his speech to students. “Agriculture is a huge entity. Iowa’s crop production is world class and we have been the top corn producer 10 years in a row. The economic impact is amazing for the state,” Northey said.
As the current legislative session is in full swing, Northey has some work to do to accomplish the goals his department has this term. Their biggest push is for water quality across the state. They are asking for a little over $6 million this year to work toward better water for Iowa’s people, as well as other initiatives.
Northey loves his job and the 335 employees he works with at the Department of Agriculture. The department handles gas pump inspections as well as feed, fertilizer, meat and dairy inspections.
“Getting around Iowa and meeting people, seeing what they are doing and finding out new things to share across the state to help other folks is one of my favorite parts of the job,” Northey said.
Northey has been around public service his entire life, but while in college he never thought he would be doing what he does today. Through his experience Northey has seen how accessible public service is to young people. He shares his advice with students with aspirations of political involvement or public service in general.
“So many young people don’t get engaged in public service. There is room at all levels of involvement. You need to be grounded in why you are doing it though. Everyone has that something they are passionate about and know more than others,” Northey said.
“Step out and engage yourself. Sometimes it will be uncomfortable, but it gets less scary. You just need to get out there and try.”
Northey is up for re-election this fall and plans to run again. His campaign has raised money so far, but hasn’t had too many events since Northey already travels the state on a regular basis. More events will be coming as the election draws closer.
Northey loves his job and is excited for another chance to serve Iowans. He said,“I can’t get enough of finding out what’s happening and helping people. If you love what you do you never have a day of work, and I am lucky to have that opportunity.”