DoAg Organizational Changes:
Strengthening Agency Planning, Coordination, and Communication
Steven K. Reviczky, Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Agriculture
It's hard to imagine that two years have passed since Governor Dannel P. Malloy appointed me as commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Agriculture (DoAg). Time passes all too quickly.
During these past 24 months, I have dedicated much effort and thought to the assessment of the state’s agricultural sector, to growing Connecticut farms, and to the role of DoAg. Of course fiscal constraints at all levels of government have enormous ramifications and enter into all aspects of these efforts.
Here at DoAg, I have identified critical needs and have prioritized actions and initiatives that will move the agency, state and local food systems, and Connecticut producers forward. Toward that end I have strengthened the functions of the Office of the Commissioner through formation of a new unit to handle agency communication, planning, coordination, and government relations—assigning George Krivda the task of managing these efforts.
Mr. Krivda has extensive management experience, particularly with diverse responsibilities, and has been immensely successful in advocating public policy positions on behalf of the administration, DoAg, Connecticut farm families, and related businesses. His work as DoAg's public information officer has brought the agency to a standard of excellence. Mr. Krivda is joined in this new and yet-to-be-officially-named unit by Stephen Anderson and Linda Piotrowicz.
Steve Anderson is a supervising environmental analyst who comes to us from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, where he distinguished himself at the Bureau of Air Management. His experience in DEEP's regulatory environment and his planning and analytical skills are a most welcome addition here at the DoAg and meet a critical agency need.
Linda Piotrowicz comes to the team after working in the DoAg's Marketing Unit for a number of years, where she created the department's Farm-to-Chef Program. Ms. Piotrowicz possesses superior communications skills and experience that have significantly improved our communications efforts and have correspondingly raised the bar. She currently leads DoAg's responsibilities for the Governor's Council for Agricultural Development; serves as editor of the Connecticut Weekly Agricultural Report, the agency’s primary tool for stakeholder communications; and continues to coordinate the Farm-to-Chef Program.
In addition to creating the above new unit, I am also very pleased to welcome Jason Bowsza, who now works directly for me as my executive assistant. Mr. Bowsza joins DoAg after eight years’ work at the Connecticut General Assembly, four of which he spent as clerk of the Standing Committee on the Environment. His experience at the state legislature is already serving us well on the front lines in the Office of the Commissioner. Mr. Bowsza replaces Mary Grace Peak, who, after over a year, returned to the private sector advocating for various causes at the state capitol.
The other major organizational change I have made here at DoAg is the selection of Joseph Dippel to lead the Bureau of Agricultural Development and Resource Preservation. Mr. Dippel comes to this task after working more than 30 years at the agency, most as the Farmland Preservation Program director.
He brings great experience to his new role, as well as rich relationships with producers and key stakeholders. His bureau director responsibilities include the Marketing Unit (encompassing grants administration and Connecticut Grown programming), the Farmland Preservation Unit, and management of the Regional Market in Hartford. J. Dippel's appointment fills the vacancy created by the May 31, 2012, retirement of Robert Pellegrino, but leaves a significant leadership and administrative void in the Farmland Preservation Program.
The new unit I have created in the Office of the Commissioner, managed by Mr. Krivda, will handle a number of critical functions:
PLANNING: Planning is essential to the success of any business, organization, or individual. If we don’t know where we want to go, how do we know if we have gotten there? Or when we need to make adjustments along the way? This new unit is involved in planning for both the agency itself and for Connecticut agriculture as a whole.
The unit is examining the multitude of programs and services DoAg offers and developing strategies to streamline and create greater efficiencies. What are the primary objectives of these programs and services? Who do they serve? How do they intersect and/or overlap with other programs and services both within and outside of DoAg? How can the agency provide constituents with the most value and best return on the investment of their hard-earned tax dollars?
In conjunction with the Governor’s Council for Agricultural Development, and with the input of hundreds of stakeholders statewide, the unit also has been hard at work crafting the first-ever, holistic strategic plan for Connecticut agriculture, Grow Connecticut Farms. The council’s first annual report on this plan will be presented to Governor Malloy in the coming weeks. Throughout 2013 and beyond, Grow Connecticut Farms will be further developed and refined, mapping out a smart, thoughtful, and prosperous path to benefit all subsectors of Connecticut agriculture and the state’s residents.
COMMUNICATIONS: Clear communication is the cornerstone of any organization, and is paramount in government, which often appears from the outside to be something of a mystery. Recently DoAg has made great strides in improving its communication with agricultural stakeholders; with Governor Malloy’s office; with other state agencies; with local, state, and federal elected officials; and with representatives from all types of media, and I am committed to doing more.
The Connecticut Weekly Agricultural Report has become DoAg’s primary tool for sharing information about the agency’s work with stakeholders, legislators, and the media. This new unit has developed a comprehensive schedule of articles to inform Ag Report readers about many more aspects of the agency’s work than ever before (including a number of things you probably had no idea we did here at DoAg).
The unit is responsible for maintaining excellent working relationships with elected officials at every level and with members of the media, all of whom can be sure that whenever they have a question, they will get an answer in a timely and professional manner.
Internally, the unit is updating the agency’s communications policies so that information flows better both within DoAg itself and from DoAg staff to each and every person the agency serves.
GOVERNMENT RELATIONS: As mentioned above, the unit maintains excellent working relationships with the administration, other state agencies, legislators, and all types of government officials—federal, state, and local. It is essential that these partners are well-informed about DoAg’s work and about Connecticut agriculture at all times.
The unit also develops the agency’s legislative agenda each year, working to propose and/or update state legislation that serves to protect the health and safety of Connecticut’s residents—both human and livestock—and serves to grow agriculture in the state. Presently, DoAg and the administration are pursuing 12 initiatives in the current legislative session, requiring extensive research, testimony, and tracking by the new unit. Look for periodic updates on these initiatives in the Connecticut Weekly Agricultural Report.
COORDINATION: Of course the best plans are of little value unless implemented. This new unit also will be helping to ensure that DoAg’s short- and long-term strategies are realized. This involves extraordinary dedication, juggling of priorities, attention to detail, and an ability to remain focused on the target in the midst of countless day-to-day distractions. While this is indeed a tremendous challenge, I am confident that my team has what it takes to keep DoAg on track to accomplish its goal of best serving all of Connecticut’s hard-working farm families and the taxpayers of this state.
These exciting changes have already borne the fruit of meaningful progress for the Department of Agriculture and for agricultural stakeholders across the state. Improving the agency's planning, communication, coordination, and implementation capabilities are paramount. As we continue to navigate uncharted waters, it is vitally important that we seek efficiencies wherever possible and practical, while continuing to keep a sharp focus on meeting the needs of the farming and agricultural community. Growing Connecticut farms requires resources—both human and financial—as well as putting those resources to work as effectively and efficiently as possible.
These organizational changes are a very good beginning.
From left to right: Steven Anderson, Jason Bowsza, Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky, George Krivda, and Linda Piotrowicz