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Meet Jeanne Kuttel

In one cornerstone moment of her career as Principal Engineer for California Department of Water Resources, Jeanne Kuttel recalls being called out on flood duty during California’s record-setting 1997 floods. For several weeks she conducted crisis management, not returning to her office for an entire month. She had no operating instructions to guide her through each circumstance – instead, she had to think on her feet, communicate quickly and clearly, and organize teams of individuals in response to the floods. Jeanne credits her many years in 4-H for helping her develop the leadership skills as a young person that would be critical to her work as an adult.

Jeanne grew up on a ranch in Lodi, California and raised cows as a 4-H project, but gradually she was drawn to develop and demonstrate her skills as a leader. By Jeanne’s junior year of high school, she would be one of only six California teens selected to serve as a 4-H Diamond Star – 4-H’s highest achievement.

Looking back, Jeanne describes the ongoing partnership between youth and adults as “the beauty of the 4-H program”.  As a junior high leader, Jeanne recalls collaborating with club leaders who would ask her, “What do you think we should do at our next meeting? How should we do it?” These interactions would establish a comfort and familiarity with planning, logistics and adult interactions that rarely exists for youth in other venues. For Jeanne, these experiences ingrained a profound sense of “what kids can do.” She explains that, “The skills are much more than how to bake a cake. We learned how to teach people things, how to run a meeting, how to reach an outcome, how to determine and implement specific steps and logistics – life skills that translate into your work and that you otherwise may not be taught."

 We learned how to teach people things, how to run a meeting, how to reach an outcome, how to determine and implement specific steps and logistics – life skills that translate into your work and that you otherwise may not be taught. - Jeanne

To this day, as she works on cutting edge projects, including the Delta Habitat and Conservation and Conveyance Program, she works with some of the same farmers and ranchers who bid on her livestock while in 4-H.  Time and again, Jeanne is reminded that, “The connections made through 4-H back to home and community are far reaching.”