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Ken Dallmier

Say what you will about Congress. KEN DALLMIER‘s last dealing with some of its members couldn’t have gone better.

This was three years ago, when the Douglas County native experienced his favorite moment of many as president and COO of Cerro Gordo’s Clarkson Grain Company.

“Testifying before the Senate Agriculture Committee as they were deliberating the most recent Farm Bill,” he says. “I was asked to provide input to the committee on the chapter dealing with organic production. It was exciting to see the input incorporated into the final language that was approved and signed.

"If you can provide direct input into the government, take the opportunity. They actually listen.”

Dallmier has come a long way since growing up on a corn and soybean farm near Arcola. Part of the credit for his ascent in the ag industry — including 16 years at Syngenta, five of them as head of North America Seeds Trait Development — goes to the faculty in the UI’s Agronomy Department during his undergrad days.

Particularly George Sprague, “a pioneer in the commercial development of hybrid corn as we know it today.”

Dallmier, who’s among 2,133 Illini featured on our special site, took time out to answer questions from Editor Jeff D’Alessio in the 102nd installment of our weekly speed read spotlighting leaders of organizations big and small.

My philosophy on meetings is ... good meetings take 30 minutes. Better meetings are shorter than that.

The hardest thing about being a leader is ... telling good people “no.”

The one thing I can’t live without is ... big picture, my family. Much smaller picture, the set of hand tools I’ve had for 30 years.

As far as my business role model goes ... I don’t have a business role model, but am most impressed with the integrity of Harry Truman, Gen. Colin Powell and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

I’m frugal in that ... I shop at Harbor Freight for tools that I don’t use every day.

I recently learned that they donate tools and money to high school skilled trades programs. I believe the skilled trades should never be discounted as a career path, and applaud Harbor Freight for their effort.

My one unbreakable rule of the workplace is ... always tell the truth. As a practical matter, it makes it easier to remember what you said.

The biggest business risk I ever took was ... investing in a multi-million-dollar capital project to expand our business in the area. I was on the job less than a month. It was a good decision.

The last luxury in which I indulged happened ... last month, when my wife, Michelle, and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary with a trip to Duluth, Minnesota, and the north shore of Lake Superior.

A beautiful part of the country built around the Minnesota state park system.

The most beneficial college class I took was ... Business and Technical Writing 251 at UIUC in the mid-1980s, which it looks to be BTW 261 in the current catalog.

It taught me to be clear and concise in written communication to keep the key information above the fold. It was an epiphany.

I’m up and at ’em every day by ... 5:30 a.m. The house is quiet, and the coffee is hot.

If I need to clearly communicate my thoughts on paper, that is the time I am best able to do it.

My exercise routine ... needs improvement. During the lawn season, it is push-mowing the yard twice each week. During the winter, it gets pretty tough.

The worst job I ever had was ... hoeing weeds in a seed corn field during high summer. We used to do that every summer from the time I was a teenager until the herbicide chemistry became gentler for parent lines.

When it comes to the impact of the pandemic ... I don’t think we have seen the full impact.

On the negative side, the physical and mental health toll on individuals and families has been tremendous, as we are just beginning to learn the extent.

On the positive side, the appreciation of our world — nature, family and the environment — has improved.

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