by Dan Harper
LA VETA- A lot of folks know Jim Conley, who works as the Colorado State University Extension Agent here in Huerfano County, or did, until he went to Iraq. When he heard the USDA was seeking agricultural extension agents to help in Iraq, he felt the need to help. He has been in the thick of things since last November helping in the reconstruction efforts, teaching skills and rebuilding their shattered agricultural base.
Despite Iraq’s obvious problems of security, language barrier, and its lack of infrastructure, Jim has remained up-beat. He has seen challenges and opportunities where most see only problems and trouble. He jumped at the opportunity to be part of the solution and his team has made significant progress in their mission.
Now Conley is back in Huerfano County for a brief time under the U.S. Department of State’s Hometown Diplomat Program, which is designed to explain to America what the Department of State does and why it matters. Explaining the purpose of Mr. Conley′s home town visit, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said “The [State] Department′s great people can explain best why Americans should care about what happens around the world. Foreign Service and Civil Service personnel have fascinating stories to tell about their careers. They can explain how we stop drugs and disease, improve the environment, make the world safer, and open up economic opportunity for Americans… Reaching out to the public in this way puts a face on foreign policy.”
Conley will be going back to Iraq for his final two months of service, but will be home for good, in December. Conley says that like Elvis, “I’ll be home for Christmas”.
On this visit home, Jim brought back a flag, that flew over the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, as a momento for Huerfano County. He presented it to the County Commissioners on Wed. Sept. 24.
Our “Home Town Diplomat” will also be speaking at a special Huerfano County Chamber of Commerce meeting on Thurs. Oct. 2 at 5:30 pm. He has a wonderful slide show to present on the Iraqi culture and their agriculture. He also has a great “fat tail sheep” story to tell. It will be an inside look at a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a man whose heart is as big as our Colorado skies. Don′t miss it!