By Rose Oswald Poels
There was a point around this time last year that I remember feeling strongly about our state’s return to a pre-pandemic way of life. We had faced the shock, endured the shutdown, and assured ourselves that we were prepared to come out stronger than ever before. It could only be a matter of weeks before we were back in the office and regularly interacting with our community. Those weeks became months, and after a year I am again feeling a similar sense of confidence that our progress is substantial. The difference this time is more than just the hope I’m feeling – it’s the events I’m seeing take place.
Last week, WBA invited the Board of Directors to a hybrid meeting at the office’s new Engagement Center. This marked the first time in more than a year that we have had bankers onsite, and although it was taking place in front of me, it took a little time to grasp that this was now a reality.
The day was met with a full agenda, safety precautions, and a virtual option for those attending remotely. At its last meeting of our fiscal year, among other things, the Board adopted the 2021-22 fiscal year budget for WBA, received updates on our varied advocacy efforts at the federal and state levels, and reviewed the staff’s progress on our Strategic Goals. Coincidentally, on this same day, most of the Agricultural Bankers Section Board members also met in person in the WBA Board Room for the first time in over a year. Among other things the WBA Ag Section Board met with Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) Secretary-designee Randy Romanski, who joined the meeting through Zoom. Both meetings were productive, and both were wonderful opportunities to see the bankers who attended in person. Our growing number of in-person meetings and events are an indication of our continued progress.
While we are not at a point where our daily interactions are reminiscent of pre-COVID life, we highlight our ability to take the necessary safety measures to move forward. It was not until the Board Meeting concluded and I gave the members a tour of our newly remodeled building that I was able to appreciate the full impact of this. Our Engagement Center was in use, our new staff was introduced, and the WBA office became a setting for familiar faces to reconvene in an almost unfamiliar way. I was taken back to last year when I had thought change was only a few weeks away. Rather than use this optimism to imagine that a return to normalcy is a brief time away, I am more inclined to embrace that change is always happening, and we are going to always make the best of it.