Carolyn Dunn

Carolyn Dunn

Age as of March 1, 2021: 50

Residence Location:         St. John, KS

Place of Operation:          St. John, KS

Business Experience:  I have been in the farming business with my husband for 20 years, steadily building the operation over that time. While I am a partner to the farming operation, my day-to-day focus is in the non-profit organization I helped start, Stafford County Economic Development, which has also grown steadily in the past 10 years. This is where I’ve really developed my range of experience in management, including organizational, financial, IT, human resources, and board relations. I think my business and agriculture background has been helpful in building key partnerships leading to new business development.  I’m driven by the concept that farm families need strong businesses and economically stable communities surrounding them that can sustain essential services and a rural way of life.

Education: BS Agricultural Economics, MBA.

Current Boards: Stafford County Hospital; Port Authority of Stafford County.

Strategic & Visionary Thinking:  I often process information and ideas in the context of the big picture. It is probably why early in my career I had an interest in legislative policymaking, and still do. I think it’s useful to try to illustrate a specific example rather that generally state an ability. One example of applying vision is that when our economic development organization got started, there was some conventional wisdom with our citizens that this would primarily be promoting tourism/hunting or Main Street (retail) businesses. I would maintain that in a town of 1200 people, we aren’t going to make enough impact with those activities. Instead, we have maintained a focus on housing development, attracting people to live here year round, and larger scale business development.

Corporate Governance: I have been actively responsible for writing organizational bylaws and policies for Stafford County Economic Development, as well as the administrative responsibility for financial audits, grant compliance audits, and ensuring adequate internal controls. I guide the group in developing corporate resolutions when needed (such as for real estate transactions or securing financing) and operating meetings in compliance with governing documents. I have led a strategic planning process with my own organization at least three times over the years and then oversee the activities that are intended to carry out goals.

Financial Expertise: Analyzing financial statements is one of my favorite parts of being an executive director, and when I plan a new project/grant application, I always start with the financial planning because I think it most clearly develops the story of what activities need to happen. It’s hard to make any project work if the income and expense and cash flow don’t make sense. I take pride in presenting financial statements to the Board of Directors I answer to that are thorough and transparent. Our organization has grown from zero to almost $6 million in assets in 9 years, with a base of funding from the county of only about $85,000 per year, which I think shows I can manage a budget. It also reflects that we strategically choose to develop projects that build assets and financial strength along with community development benefits, which have included housing and private/public business partnerships. My formal education is in business and economics, which makes me comfortable in reading key financial statements.

Communication: I have considerable training in leadership styles, which includes improving awareness of others’ communication and working styles, and an increased awareness of how you listen and deploy yourself. Sometimes in a group it’s important to raise unpopular topics, and other times, important to try to calm the mood or focus on the commonality. Sometimes communication is more appropriate before the board meeting, but sometimes the side meetings are an indication of inadequate communication in the board meeting. In addition to communication within a board setting, I’ve been a spokesperson in for rural and ag issues on TV, radio, and newspaper, was the speaker on the topic of Rural America at the 2008 National Republican Convention, and have testified before the Kansas Legislature multiple times.

Technology: I’m not an IT expert, but I routinely use business technology tools for communication and recordkeeping. I work in a small office, and don’t have an IT department to lean on when everyday issues come up so have to figure it out.  My office includes a public shared workspace with 13 computers, and I’ve overseen the installation of software and security measures for the office, and during the pandemic we chose to allow our bank of idle computers to be used for “folding” which lends their processing capacity to university studies that were researching, among other things, vaccines. So I’m fairly proficient at the user level, but not even close to understanding the back end when it comes to networking, algorithms, coding artificial intelligence, or security. I’m aware of American AgCredit’s strategy to lean more heavily on technology for identifying customers and for processing loans, and it makes a lot of sense to me strategically even if I don’t know the programming behind it.

Human Resource Management: Again, my experience in this area is especially through Stafford County Economic Development. In the past year, we have employed five interns and hired an Assistant Director; and have openings for up to five interns again in the coming year. Through this, I’m familiar with leading online job postings sites and strategies. It’s also given me a fresh perspective on the way professionals entering the workforce view issues such as work/life balance, training, communication, the role of the employer in creating job satisfaction for the employee; having thorough articulation of responsibilities and measures of job performance, along with a supervisor who is willing to put the effort into constructive feedback. I see value in developing pipelines of talent, utilizing internships for both parties to evaluate each other before making a longer commitment, and appealing to a sense of purpose in addition to doing a job.

Risk Management: I am familiar with instruments used to hedge agricultural commodities and some of the strategies and techniques. I am not the one in our operation who actively makes the decisions on pricing or using the various tools. I like reading ag reports, but I am not one to listen to the daily markets. If I were to assess my risk tolerance on a scale of 1 to 10, I would say I’m a solid 8. I’d like to think this is in the category of feeling comfortable in taking a calculated risk, without being a gambler. It’s my nature to want to do something to achieve a better result rather than be satisfied with the status quo. Stated another way, I think I value growth more than security. If it doesn’t work, you course correct before the damages are too severe, adjust, and then try again.

Leadership: I’ve been involved in Kansas agriculture in various ways for nearly 30 years. I was a member of the House Agriculture Committee staff during the 1996 Farm Bill and was the Legislative Assistant for Agriculture and Transportation for Sen. Sam Brownback in 1997-99, the first woman to hold that role for a Kansas senator. My husband Brian and I were involved in Young Farmer and Rancher activities through Kansas Farm Bureau and were runner up AFBF Young Farmer and Rancher of the Year in 2005. Past board positions include the Kansas Corn Commission, Kansas Bank Board, and USD 350 Board of Education. In 2008 – 2015, I helped develop and facilitated Leadership Golden Belt, a four-county civic leadership program through our local Community Foundation. I previously served on the KS Dept of Transportation Freight Advisory Committee. Currently, I serve on the Stafford County Hospital Board and the Port Authority of Stafford County, which is in the early stages of developing a rail transload facility for grain and other commodities.



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