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Flexibility is an important trait to possess, no matter the job. But in a government job, it becomes even more important.
On this episode of Women of Washington, Gigi Schumm welcomed two powerful women representing the Agriculture Department’s rural development team. Anne Hazlett serves as assistant to the secretary of Rural Development. Edna Primrose serves as chief operating officer.
“At the end of the day, you as a leader, need to make a decision,” Hazlett said. “But [should] bring in those that are going to be impacted by the decision either personally or because it will influence and impact programs that they lead. … The process is not well suited if you don’t have everybody at the table and at least talking through all of the different angles.”
Males still dominate the STEM fields, including agriculture. But both women have been able to carve their legacies into their agencies. Their secret? Always giving a task their absolute best and not backing down from a challenge because of possible barriers in others’ mind.
Hazlett said that actions speak louder than words. “Initially you may have people that are skeptical or are waiting to see what you will deliver, but if you work hard and show people not through your words, but instead by your actions, I think that quickly often levels the field.”
Primrose agreed, saying one of the best pieces of advice she’s received is to never underestimate your value. And it’s important, she said, to continue to be a role model for other women.
Hazlett grew up among the wheat and cornfields in rural Indiana, but she started her journey to the Agriculture Department after working on Capitol Hill for the Senate Agriculture Committee. She said the field inspires her, and she’s happy working in a place where she can impact the community, especially when she is able to leave the office, and meet one-on-one with those impacted by USDA regulations.
“I think that I enjoy just being in a place doesn’t have to be a position, but just being in a situation where I can really make a difference in the community in which I live and work,” Hazlett said. “So if I wasn’t working in agriculture, I would [still] be doing something where I’m helping people and making things more positive for them and then collectively for the community.”
Edna too said she always wanted to work in a team environment where she can make a difference, though her journey to the department was a little different. She started her career in the construction and education fields.
They both said they owe a lot of their success to the leadership before them.
“I think one thing I’ve learned over the course of my career is not to think too far into the future. See what doors open and what opportunities are next, and to make the most of where you are in the season that you’re in,” Hazlett said. “I’ve really embraced that full throttle in the role that I’m in right now and a lot of that comes from the leadership of Secretary [Sonny] Perdue.”
Edna says its about giving yourself time to grow and flourish in your role. She said it’s about pursuing your passion, not just a paycheck.