New Soil Division Leader Named

Tammy Lawson gets the nod. Tom J. Bechman

Published on: Sep 16, 2005

Indiana's Division of Soil Conservation, in limbo over the past six months, is set to get back on solid footing soon. Indiana Department of Ag Director Andy Miller confirmed that Tammy Lawson, Thorntown, will be the new director of the Division of Soil Conservation.

Until last spring, the Division of Soil Conservation, created in the T by 2000 program 20 years ago, operated under the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. As the legislature approved a new department of agriculture, the legislation was amended to move the Division of Soil under the new ISDA. Andy Miller, ISDA director told Indiana Prairie Farmer earlier this summer that it simply made the most sense for this division to be part of ISDA.

It's mission crept into being also regulatory, Miller says. "That's not what we want," he says. "We want to get back to putting conservation on the land. That's where our resources should go."

Gail Peas, Frankfort, a former Division employee and then a Farm Service Agency state program specialist, was tapped to lead the reorganized division last spring. One of her biggest tasks, laying off 21 employees in early August to free up resources to move the department forward, brought angry reactions from several soil and water conservation districts served by some of those employees.

Peas resigned for personal reasons near the end of August. Miller named Lawson, already a program leader within ISDA, as temporary director of the division.

Lawson is a farmwife who has directed major events for many groups, including Indiana Prairie Farmer, the Indiana Soybean Board and Purdue University's ag school. She recently served as chairperson of the Indiana FSA state committee. Her and her husband, Donny, operate a grain and livestock farm with other members of Donny's family.

Tammy has been outspoken in her desire to move soil conservation back to the basics and to the forefront in Indiana. She's convinced that both can be accomplished at the same time.

Miller also named Jerod Chew as assistant director. Chew most recently was an urban conservation specialists within the Division, based in Johnson County. His technical background is expected to complement Lawson's leadership experience.

The pair will officially begin their new roles on Sept. 19. Lawson was named interim director after Gail Peas, Frankfort, resigned from the role in August.