BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Working together and keeping an open dialog were common themes during Jean Payne’s leadership at the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association, and those qualities were reiterated at her retirement party Aug. 25.
On hand to celebrate with Payne were former and current IFCA board members and staff, farmers, and representatives from governmental agencies, academia, agribusiness and commodity groups.
The event was held at the conclusion of the opening day of IFCA’s annual Midwest Ag Industries Exposition.
“I’ve known no others who have been so dedicated to and have loved this industry as much as she has.”— Kevin Johnson, president, Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association
Payne retired March 31 after 17 years as IFCA president and 23 years with the organization.
Kevin “KJ” Johnson, who took the helm as IFCA president on April 1, led off the program.
“Jean has been a mentor to everyone on the IFCA staff and others outside the association during her tenure as president. I’ve known no others who have been so dedicated to and have loved this industry as much as she has,” said Johnson of his predecessor and mentor.
“Going into the office, she’d tell me how much this membership meant to her and just do the right thing and they would appreciate it.
“I’ve know Jean since 2000 when I was working on Capitol Hill. In 2012 my boss retired and she took a chance. She called me two weeks later and asked if I’d consider a position at IFCA. It’s been one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever had to work with this lady.
“She was an amazing boss for many reasons — the trust she put in the staff to carry out the duties she hired them to do, to perform and to never be a micromanager. She trusted her staff to do what was right even when we might have questioned it.
“One of the lessons I learned from Jean is to talk to others that you might not agree with. Even if you couldn’t find common ground on a given issue, she taught me the importance to keep an open dialogue. Never burn a bridge because you never know when you might need that person next time to go to battle.
“Jean told us the date she was going to retire and over the past year she has put the IFCA staff in a position to keep things moving in a positive direction after her retirement. She made her transition and departure from IFCA as seamless as possible. She has left this organization in great shape.”
Payne reminisced about her career at IFCA and the many friendships she developed.
“I want to thank the members of IFCA. A lot of you are here, former members and current members who I met today who are here enjoying this retirement party,” Payne said.
“If I had a dollar for every time one of you said thank you to me, even when we weren’t successful on an issue but tried our best, I could have retired five years ago if not earlier. And that’s been the greatest part about working with this organization is the appreciation. You cannot put a price on gratitude, so just remember that for the people in your life, especially the people that are struggling in leadership positions trying to do their best, but it doesn’t always go your way.
“People from the Illinois Department of Agriculture are here, friends I’ve worked with for so many years. We didn’t always see eye to eye, but in the end we always worked things through, we never held a grudge, we did what was right and we moved on to the next issue. One of my greatest pleasures was working with a regulatory agency which is a scary thing for a lot of people in agriculture. You guys were phenomenal.
“I want to thank my parents who are here. I have four other brothers and sisters. They raised us all to have confidence, to do the right thing and to have fun, and they set an example of working hard but have fun and don’t let people get you down and it’ll always be OK in the end.
“My friends at the Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Corn Growers Association and Illinois Soybean Association have worked together on so many issues. We don’t always agree, but you guys know what the best thing for the farmer is. Thank you for all of the support over the years.”