Guest Blogger: Dan Keppen, President Family Farm Alliance and Chamber Board President
From a professional standpoint, I now have twenty six years of experience in water resources engineering and policy matters. Since the mid-1990’s, I have worked primarily in advocacy positions representing Western irrigators, including ten years as executive director of the Family Farm Alliance, over three years as executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA), and four years at Northern California Water Association. In my decade at the Alliance, the organization has been asked to testify (by both parties) before Congress 45 times. I think this is some of the best evidence I can point to which supports how our organization is viewed nationally as a leader in the Western water arena.
I have lived in numerous communities in several states during the course of my life and career. Everywhere I’ve lived, I’ve been fairly active in community affairs. However, before moving to Klamath Falls in 2001, most of those activities were tied, directly or indirectly, to my work. That changed significantly when I moved to Klamath Falls. My first few years in the Klamath Basin were very stressful and intense, as KWUA was in the midst of one of the most controversial, high-profile water conflicts in the country. After the devastating water curtailment of 2001, KWUA and other leaders in the local community and our elected officials managed to keep water flowing to the farmers in the ensuing years. When I stepped down from KWUA in 2005 to start my own business, I felt a debt of gratitude for a community that openly shared its appreciation for the work we had accomplished during a very contentious period.
In fact, the work-related award I most cherish is the “First Citizen” award presented to me by the Chamber of Commerce in 2005. Prior to 2005, much of my “civic duty” commitments were applied in a variety of local, regional and national water and environmental endeavors, where I felt I could best apply my talents. After stepping down from KWUA, that changed. I felt an immense sense of gratitude towards this community that I wanted to pay back in terms of a much more local sense of “civic duty”.
In the past ten years, I’ve been involved in a variety of local political referendums, including two bond measures to fund County School District improvements (I chaired the Political Action Committee for the failed 2006 effort); the City School bond measure, political campaigns in support of leaders who I believe will best serve our community, as well as initiatives in support of the important Klamath water settlement agreements and the current effort to fund public safety improvements in the community. I chaired the Klamath County Natural Resources Advisory Committee, which provides guidance to our county commissioners. I also served on the advisory committee for the Henley High School agricultural and vocational education program. On the national level, I served three years on the Irrigation Association board of directors.
I currently serve on the board of directors for the national Clean Water America Alliance and was appointed by the State of Colorado to the agricultural water conservation work group as part of the Bureau of Reclamation’s “Next Steps” phase of the Colorado River Basin Study process. I am also a senior fellow for the American Leadership Forum of Oregon and a proud Paul Harris Fellow member of the Klamath County Rotary Club. I’m truly honored to begin my term as the new president of the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce board of directors, after serving on the board for more than a decade.
So – with all that background laid out, I feel like I can begin to articulate my thoughts on leadership, and share my perspective on what I believe are the skills that make better leaders. I’ve been honored to work with leaders at all levels, and believe me, we have some amazing, courageous leaders in this community who set a great example for others to follow. These are the leadership traits that I’ve learned from those I most admire and do my best to emulate:
- A willingness to tackle the tough issues;
- The gift to honor differences;
- The ability to openly communicate;
- A demonstrated readiness to stand up for other leaders;
- A commitment to building and sustaining strong relationships;
- The ability to integrate diverse perspectives and endorse a philosophy of trust, collaboration and acceptance;
- Personal responsibility;
- The energy to cultivate new and sometimes non-traditional friendships;
- A willingness to elevate from being in a leadership position to becoming a true leader.
It sometimes seems our community is in a constant state of conflict. However, I’ve learned that distress sometimes brings out the best in true leaders.
In the past year, encouraging developments have sprung up that give me true, enthusiastic hope for our community. The Economic Development Summit is coming together and many local organizations are getting involved to tackle key challenges. We are seeing a local momentum shift in favor of a historic water agreement. The Klamath IDEA, Klamath Works, the Downtown Association and Main Street Re-development, a more engaged business community and a revitalized KCEDA, expansion of OIT and OHSU, and the KCC workforce development program are all coming together at the same time, and the time couldn’t be better.
I look forward to working with the Chamber in the coming year as our organization seeks to lead, connect and advocate on behalf of the local business community. The current Chamber leadership team has the skills, I believe, to forge truly effective solutions to the really tough challenges we face, based on a foundation of strong leadership, listening, collaboration and networking.
About Our Guest Blogger:
Dan Keppen is President of Dan Keppen & Associates, Inc. a water policy consulting firm. He serves a variety of clients, although much of his time is spent fulfilling his duties as Executive Director for the Family Farm Alliance (Alliance), a non-profit association that advocates for family farmers, ranchers, irrigation districts and allied industries in 17 Western States. The Alliance is a grassroots-based organization that puts Congressional and Administration staff members into direct contact with water users and local water agencies. Keppen works for the Alliance under contract.
Keppen served for over five years on the board of directors of the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce, sits on the Klamath Basin Ecosystem Foundation board of directors, is a member of the board of directors of the national Irrigation Association, and chairs the Klamath County Rotary Club program committee. He was appointed by Gov. Kulongoski in 2005 to serve on the Climate Change Integration Group. He has testified before the U.S. Congress on water and environmental policy matters eleven times since 2002.
He is a Registered Professional Civil Engineer in California and a past Civil Engineer and Certified Water Rights Examiner in Oregon. Keppen received his M.S. in Civil Engineering (Water Resources) from Oregon State University and his B.S. in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Wyoming. He lives in Klamath Falls, Oregon with his two children.