Summer 2016 Conservation Profile

Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor Kathryn Kelly


As this election season is in full swing it seems appropriate to highlight an elected office that few people know about and where there is a need for women leaders; Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor.  SWCDs as they are know can be found in most counties of Minnesota. They are local units of government that help landowners protect and restore soil, water and natural resources.  The Supervisors serve as the Board helping to provide guidance and policies for these organizations.  Learn more by finding your SWCD on the web.

Today we are highlighting one of the women SWCD Supervisors who is truly “outstanding in her field”. Dr. Kathryn Kelly has served in this role in Renville County for many years.  She is a retired professional educator, having served on the Education Department faculty at St. Cloud State University.  She has owned farmland for much of her life but now lives “in town”  in Olivia, Minnesota.

Kathryn’s passion for involvement and protecting natural resources began at an early age. She notes “My father was the impetus for my involvement. He led by example through his work in early adoption of conservation practices. He also advised me from my earliest memory that,  "when you  retire, you need to become involved in doing things that make things better. After all, others did things to pave the way for opportunities you had." Wise advice I have followed! And....I'm not a rocking chair type of person!!”


Along with serving on the county SWCD she has held positions of vice president, president and as a national voting delegate for the Minnesota Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD) as well as a representative for the organization on the State Board of Water and Soil Resources.  She encourages younger leaders or those who are shy to seek out opportunities to be leaders providing mentoring along the way.  Kathryn commented that “The result is amazing; many are surprised at their ability to be effective! I lead by example and from the sidelines, always encouraging.”

 So what advice does she have for women who are considering a leadership role? “Often women are discounted because they're women. Once proven credible, people listen. The stereotypical view of women not being as effective still exists and must be challenged. Actually, women, by and large, have a strong sense of collegiality and easily incorporate/integrate  others' ideas toward effective results. Women should not shrink from leadership opportunities and must seek those opportunities to share expertise and leadership.”

Renewing the Countryside, along with Kathryn, encourage you to consider becoming involved with your local SWCD.  How to begin? Start by going to the SWCD office, meeting the staff and finding out if you can volunteer or assist with activities. Then consider filing for a position as an elected supervisor. There is lots of support to do this with training for those elected provided by the state organization, MASWCD. Take it as far as you can and be proud of the fact that you, like Kathryn, have done your part in protecting our soil and water!