Lance Rutledge Begins His Great Year Of Service With Montana FFA
The 2023-24 MT FFA State Officer team have been together about a month and are already out in the communities around the state making a difference. I caught up with Lance Rutledge, the new state Treasurer from Big sandy and asked him about his start in FFA.
I am the fifth generation on our family farm/ ranch, southeast of Big Sandy. It was homesteaded back in 1912. Definitely a family tradition of farming and ranching, we moved back when I was about a year and a half and for as long as I can remember, I've been on the farm ranch doing cows, crops and whatever I could get my hands on.
Early start to Agriculture Leadership
I've been a 4-H member for 13 years. I started out as a treasurer and then served two years as president of our club. Recently I stepped back to help guide the transition for the next group of leaders in the club so I could help them get situated. 4-H has given me a stepping stone into leadership in Ag. (4-H) Having such a strong statewide community really helps meet people from all over the state. It's not necessarily school-based so there's a lot wider variety than what you see in FFA. It's really exciting just to see how across the state, how Ag differs and it's a lot more than just agriculture for 4-H. They have a lot of the home-ec so it definitely has given a lot more opportunities to some kids that I know.
I've done replacement bred heifers for the last six or seven years, so once again I'll have my heifer down at the fair this year. I also do market steer, so I show both of those. I've also gone down to Nile a couple times and shown down there, but I also do leadership, which has really helped to propel me to where I am.
I've been playing football since sixth grade. Last four years we've lost to the state champions and the last three of those years, my freshman through junior year has all been in the semi-finals by less than a score. It's definitely, we've been right there for the last four or five years, but this fall we finally got past that barrier and won Big Sandy's first state championship for football that it's ever had, which was really nice. It weas also the first time it's ever been hosted in Big Sandy as well, so really exciting, a lot of fun.
Why did you get into FFA
My sister is the main reason why I've come as far as I have in FFA. My seventh grade year she was elected as the Montana second vice president and that is what pushed me to continue in FFA. Just seeing the opportunities that it gave her and how much it meant to her showed me what FFA can do on a personal level and just getting to meet the people. One of the first statewide events I went to was ALC (Alumni Leadership Camp) down here in Highwood and I got a meet about a hundred kids from across the state and spend a week at Arrowhead Camp and that was just so much fun getting to meet and connect with people and build some of those leadership skills. From the start, FFA was definitely where I wanted to put a lot of my time into.
Our (Big Sandy) team competed in Ag Sales. I ended up placing eighth in the agriculture sales competition. There were about four points that separated 10th from second, so really close. Starting Wednesday, we had interviews in hotbox. So, when we were into interviews, we were with 27 other candidates in what's called the hot box where we just can interact with each other, get to know a little bit about each other and build connections with ultimately who you're gonna be serving your year of service with. We started out Wednesday night, interviewed all of Thursday and then Friday morning we finished up interviews and then Saturday was elections. We all huddled in the back in the Four Seasons and they go down the list and I was thankful enough to be elected to serve as treasurer this year.
State FFA Officer Candidate Hot Box
They put us in about 70 square foot room with 27 of us and told us, figure it out. So, we made a couple icebreaker games, just try and get to know each other, just a lot of interactions trying to figure out who's who and that's where all your impressions are going to come from. Later on, they ask you who do you want to serve with? So, that time in the hot box is really important to sit down and figure out who will I get along with, and who am I looking forward to serving a year of office with. It's not just a team, it's going to become a family, we're all going to spend a lot of time together, a lot of events.
Officer Candidate Interviews
We started out with a round robin interview, one interviewee and then three interviewers. We had three minutes, three questions with each of those tables. We made rounds and then we were done. Next we went into some nine on one interviews. The nomination committee is made up of three past state officers, three current FFA members and three industry leaders. So, with the nine of them together we did interviews, that was a little more personal, talking about my experiences in FFA, that sort of stuff. Then we did some team interviews as well, where they paired us off depending on which round it was either four or five. From there it was a glimpse for them to see how that team would work together, how this individual may work as a team if they're able to fill in to certain roles.
READ STORY ON NEW OFFICER TEAM
Saturday Morning Announcement
Walking in, we all knew there's a good chance we won't get a state office because there was 27 of us. Thursday night they did a cut, so it was 15 of us left in that huddle and we knew half of us weren't going to be on that stage and we knew no matter what group it was coming out of that 15, they were all phenomenal leaders. Any one of those 15 would make a great state officer this year. It just came down to what the nomination committee saw fit for the year. It's hard because they go down the list and, now there's only three spots left, who's, who's going to be it? Seeing the names that were called ahead of me, I knew that regardless of who was going to be on that stage, it was going to be a great year. I was just so thankful that Big Sandy FFA, Lance Rutledge got called. It was definitely a lot of emotions looking back, I don't exactly know what all they were, but there was some crying, there was a lot of hugs, a lot of excitement, probably a lot of nervousness at least from my end. I don't know about the other seven, but it was definitely really exciting and definitely something like that's never probably going to happen again. For me it was just having the group around me made it 10 times better.
Upcoming Year of Service
We have our first training coming up this Sunday, so we're going to spend three days down in Bozeman where the eight of us work with past state officers and some national staff trying to get a basis for what skills we need to work on for ourselves. Then we got a whole list of stuff I mentioned earlier, that ALC camp. We go up to Highwood and we help the counselors do all that. We're kind of their little gophers. We go do this, go do that. Whatever needs to be done. Coming up this fall, we're going to start DLS trainings, which is district by district where members can come in and work on their leadership skills to take back to their chapter and help advance their chapter skills. One of the parts I'm most looking forward to is over Christmas break. We do chapter visits where the eight of us break into groups of two and we go through different chapters doing visits, doing workshops, getting to know Montana FFA, which I'm really looking forward to just because it's that one-on-one interaction. Getting to know people's FFA stories, just getting to talk to them. Then we finish off next year at our convention again, where we'll all give our retiring addresses and look back on our year. I'm really looking forward to this year, the seven members that I have around me. Great, amazing people and I'm really excited to see what this year holds in store for us and really excited to see the impact that we can hopefully have on Montana. FFA.
Strong Family Support
I would not be able to be here without the support of my family and my chapter. My parents have ran me from FFA event to FFA event. When I first started in junior high. our new advisor was a little hesitant on taking junior high kids, so my parents have taken me to a bunch of these events and that's how I started to grow in FFA. I had the chance to meet people, and then my advisor these last few years has really pushed me to take on this opportunity to run for state office and really pushed me to be a better leader in FFA.
Picture of Andrea and Lance
Older Sister Andrea
My sister Andrea Rutledge, like I said, served as a state officer, 2017- 2018. She is really who showed me what FFA holds, the opportunities she had when she went to national convention as a state officer. Her showing me what FFA has held for her and how it has made her a better person and the opportunities given her has really been important in my journey.
To learn more about the Montana FFA click HERE
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