Representatives from sixteen states met in Montpelier, Vermont during the week of September 9, 2013 to hold the Partners for Rural America annual meeting, reinforce collaborations and visit successful
community vitality and entrepreneurship activities. Considerable focus was given to examining Vermont’s very successful “local food to table” systems. Bonnie Peterson, president of Juneau County Economic Development Corp., participated as a representative of Wisconsin Rural Partners, Inc. and a retiring board member of
Partners for Rural America.
Partners for Rural America is the national arm of the State Rural Development Councils (SRDCs). The SRDCs are federally recognized through the National Rural Development Partnership and the federal Farm Bill. State councils
provide a variety of services including hosting educational forums, highlighting best practices, and providing community assessments that help rural communities engage in priority setting and planning efforts. SRDCs actualize the mission of the National Rural Development Partnership by sharing examples of best practices, serving as neutral conveners, brokers of new partnerships, and facilitators of progress.
PRA convenes the State Rural Development Councils to share experiences, coordinate policy and program work that crosses state boundaries, and to support the national advancement of rural development efforts. Given its mission from the Farm Bill, PRA is a unique bridge building organization of the state councils and helps them collaborate across sectors, coordinate program development and implementation and support models for community success. All councils work to connect local rural communities to regional, state, federal, non-profit and private sector resources to enable them to move forward and accomplish their long term priorities and build leadership.
During the meeting, PRA also strengthened its ties with the Rural Policy Research Institute and its President and CEO Chuck Fluharty and representatives from state policy centers in nine states. The meeting was enhanced by visits and comments by Speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives Shap Smith, Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding, and Lt. Governor Phil Scott.
PRA elected its sixteen member board representing eight districts from across the county. It also elected its officers as follows: Chair: Jerry Townsend, Illinois Rural Partners; Vice-Chair: Mike Field, Idaho Rural Partnership; Secretary: Mary Ann Hayes, Maine Rural Partners; and Treasurer: Mary Randolph, Wyoming Rural Development Council.
Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont was awarded the Champion of Rural America award for strong ongoing support of Partners for Rural America. Ricky Rolfsmeyer of Wisconsin Rural Partners and immediate past chair of PRA was presented the Ron Shaffer Award for Excellence in Collaborative Leadership. The Ron Shaffer Award is presented to an individual who embodies the values, skills and impacts necessary to build a national and state rural development partnership that meets the needs of rural America. The award is named after the late professor from UW-Madison whose impact in the field of community economic development is known worldwide, through his
leadership in the University of Wisconsin - Extension, Center for Community Economic Development, Community Development Society, and National Rural Economic Development Institute, to name a few. He was one of the pioneers of the Community Economic Analysis process now widely used around the world today, and
the Community Economic Preparedness Index measuring tool for communities.
For more information, visit PRA’s website at www.partnersforruralamerica.org and Wisconsin Rural Partners, Inc. website at www.wirural.org.