Herald JournalHerald Journal, Oct. 11, 2004

Eric Sawatzke running for national FFA office

By Lynda Jensen

Once again, elbow grease is paying off for Eric Sawatzke of Waverly, who was asked recently to represent Minnesota as a candidate for one of six national FFA offices, to be named at the end of the month.

It started with a phone call from Minnesota FFA Advisor Joel Larson, who asked Sawatzke about the subject.

“He said I’d be the strongest candidate,” Sawatzke recalled. This is no wonder, according to Jim Weninger, the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted FFA advisor, since Sawatzke just finished serving as the Minnesota State FFA vice president; tying up a host of achievements before and after graduating from HLWW this spring.

The candidacy wasn’t in his plans this year, Sawatzke said. “I was going to wait a year and take the summer off,” he said. He is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota majoring in agricultural education.

If Sawatzke can beat 41 other candidates vying for the six spots at the national convention, he will be on the road 270 days of the year and cover 100,000 miles as a national officer, being trained in every aspect of agriculture.

“It’s basically four years of college packed into four months,” Sawatzke said of the training. “They say you can pretty much pick your job,” Sawatzke said.

The election process will be broadcast live from Louisville, Kentucky, 2 p.m. Saturday Oct. 30 on RFD TV, which is available as a basic channel locally on DISH Network (9409) or DirectTV (379).

There will also be a segment aired when Sawatzke will introducing himself in front of 12,000 people Friday, Oct. 29 on RFD, he said.

Is he nervous? You bet. “I’m more nervous about this than anything I’ve ever done,” he said

The selection for national officers is a six-day process, in which candidates undergo a rigorous testing period.

While preparing for his candidacy, Sawatzke has been meeting with Minnesota legislative leaders such as Sen. Norm Coleman, Congressman Gil Gutknecht, heads of commodities, and the heads of the agricultural department at the University of Minnesota.

If he ties down a national spot, he will once again be travelling overseas, first to Japan for an international agriculture experience. He has already visited Germany, Austria, Italy, Denmark, and Sweden.

He has earned several scholarships for his college career based on leadership skills, and earned several awards, including the chapter star greenhand award, being a state creed speaking finalist, being a regional proficiency award winner, and earning his state degree.

Other achievements include being a past student council president, a member of the National Honor Society, serving as a U of M student board member and U of M agricultural education club member, and being vice president of the FarmHouse Fraternity recruitment.

During the national convention, he will also collect his American degree.

Sawatzke is the son of Dick and Jan Sawatzke of Waverly. The Sawatzkes operated a dairy farm of 75 head north of Waverly until Eric was 12. Ironically, the former dairy farm is being targeted for large-scale residential development.

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