Elizabeth Meyer realized a dream four years in the making Friday, emerging from a group of 17 candidates to be elected state FFA president at the group’s annual convention in Manhattan.
Saturday, she celebrated her birthday with her new state officer team.
“It was so busy and intense leading up to it that I kind of forgot it was my birthday,” she said. “Since my freshman year this is really something I wanted to do. It’s beyond my wildest dreams.”
Meyer graduated in May from Marion High School. When she arrived at the convention there was no guarantee she would even be on the ballot. She also didn’t know what office she might end up running for.
Those decisions were in the hands of a nominating committee, which had to eliminate five candidates before determining what offices the remaining 12 would compete for.
To do so, candidates endured three days filled with group and individual interviews, prepared and impromptu speeches, meetings with agriculture industry stakeholders, and an exam.
Marion-Florence FFA adviser Mark Meyer, Elizabeth’s father, said the process was designed to reveal knowledge of the industry, character, interpersonal skills, leadership traits, and motivation.
“That’s one of the more grueling things a person can go through,” he said. “She was physically and mentally exhausted Thursday night.”
When the committee’s decision was announced, she and Clara Wicoff of Iola were slated for president.
“You look at the candidate’s resumes and top to bottom, they’re at the top of the class and leading organizations,” Mark Meyer said. “I’d have just been happy for her to have been placed on the ballot. To be one of the top two in that group is really special.”
Attaining special took many years of hard work for Elizabeth, who said she was somewhat insecure at the outset of her involvement with FFA.
“As a freshman, she wasn’t even sure she would like FFA, and she had misgivings about taking the agriscience class,” Mark Meyer said.
Chapter seniors, particularly Montana Percell, became mentors that encouraged her, Elizabeth said, as did her 4-H adviser, Kim Harms of Lincolnville.
“I think it’s easy for people to look at her success and think it comes easy,” Harms said. “The coolest thing about Elizabeth is that things didn’t come easy for her. She’s had lots of disappointments and lots of things that didn’t turn out the way she wanted. She takes the setbacks and uses them as fuel for fire to get better.”
Harms referred to NFL quarterback Peyton Manning in describing Elizabeth’s work ethic.
“There are tons of special, talented people that are quarterbacks in the NFL,” she said. “What sets him apart is preparation. Elizabeth Meyer is the Peyton Manning of FFA. She outworks and out-prepares anybody else.”
True to form, Elizabeth was practicing interviews with Harms, USD 408 superintendent Lee Leiker, and others up through the week before the convention. She talked with local implement dealers and veterinarians. The Friday before the conference, she was still learning, meeting with Kansas Department of Agriculture officials and others to expand her knowledge of the industry.
Years of work all paid off Friday.
“I have such a supportive community,” Elizabeth said. “They gave me a sense of importance when I was lacking confidence as a freshman. They just all felt like family.”
Elizabeth and her fellow officers weren’t given any time to rest after her election. About 10 days of indoctrination and training in Manhattan commenced Saturday.
The upcoming year will be a busy mix of visiting chapters, attending FFA events, executive committee meetings, and meeting with various industry and governmental representatives. Elizabeth will balance that with being a freshman at Kansas State University.
“It’s not about the title,” Elizabeth said. “I want to be an advocate for this industry. I want to let members feel encouraged and important, instilling members with living their lives with a sense of purpose. It’s quite the job. I hope I make the most of it.”