TORRINGTON – One of two trustees seated on the Eastern Wyoming College board in December is stepping down after just five months on the job.
Trustee Darrell Wilkes announced his resignation during the board’s regular meeting Tuesday, what turned out to be his final meeting. Around May 1, he plans to be in place in San Antonio, Texas, where he’s already accepted a position as chief executive officer for the International Brangus Breeders Association.
“Darrell Wilkes has been a pleasure to work with, whether he has been working as a friend of the college, a consultant for EWC or a board of trustees member,” college president Lesley Travers said. “He truly cares about EWC and his time and energy have been appreciated and will be sorely missed.
“Many community groups will miss his participation and energy,” she said. “Darrell’s move to Texas is a huge loss for EWC and Goshen County. He is a real gentleman and a scholar.”
Wilkes said Wednesday he’s already been on the job with the association for some time, commuting between Goshen County and Texas. Raised in eastern Wyoming, Wilkes moved back a few years ago and has been operating a small herd of registered angus cattle – one of the parent breeds of Brangus – for some time.
When he departs eastern Wyoming, Wilkes said he’ll be leaving with the work he hoped to accomplish when he first started thinking about a bid for the EWC board unfinished, work he hopes those he’s leaving behind will take up and complete.
“I feel there’s some opportunity to significantly improve and expand both the ag department and veterinary technology,” Wilkes said. “It could be a destination point for people that are interested in large animal veterinary medicine but who don’t want to go to veterinary school.”
Wilkes pointed to an oddity in Wyoming law which doesn’t recognize the credentials of veterinary technology graduates, something that’s done in most other states in the country. He likened it to a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner, working under the supervision of a medical doctor, and all the things they can do.
“In Wyoming, for some ridiculous, unknown reason for me, the Veterinary Practice Act doesn’t even mention veterinary technicians,” he said.” It doesn’t recognize their credentials. I was going to put forth a full-court press lobbying effort with the veterinary community and the Wyoming Stock Growers Association to amend (the act) to recognize the credentials of a veterinary technician.”
Without that recognition, vet tech graduates from EWC almost have to go to other states if they want to take full advantage of their training. There’s so much a vet tech could do, under the supervision of a veterinarian, which could assist both ranchers and vets alike.
“Most states recognize … the credentials of a person with a vet tech degree,” Wilkes said. “When their credentials are recognized, as long as they’re working under the supervision of a licensed vet, they can do a lot of things we’d think a vet would have to do.”
Another area Wilkes had hoped to influence change is the growing move away from large-animal training in the EWC vet tech program in favor of small animals – dogs and cats. It’s a logical change, he said. But it also tends to influence graduates to leave Wyoming.
“It evolved in a rational way that I don’t like toward training small-animal veterinary techs to go to work in animal hospitals in large cities outside Wyoming,” he said. “That’s where the money is for a vet tech.
“I’m not pointing a finger – it’s perfectly rational what happened. But I want to see the program at EWC reclaim its prior status as the most highly respected large animal vet tech school in perhaps a four-state region. In the old days, that was how it was viewed.”
Wilkes is hopeful there are members of the board who will take up his causes. And there are a few things he’s proud of during his brief tenure as a trustee.
“I’m proud we got the groundbreaking going for ATEC,” Wilkes said. “I’m not yet satisfied the ag curriculum has been upgrade to the point to justify this beautiful new home they’ve got. That has to happen.”
Wilkes also said the Wyoming Legislature’s move to allow community colleges to offer four-year Bachelor of Applied Science degrees is a win for the ag program at EWC. Noting his admiration for the other programs the college offers – and admitting his own bias in favor of agriculture – Wilkes said the opportunities and potential offered by the BAS degrees is wide open in the agriculture department.
“I think the other programs are all fabulous,” he said. “But my background is in agriculture, so my focus is to push the ag program to meet the needs to be able to offer the Bachelor of Applied Science and to innovate the curriculum.”
Wilkes said, when the eastern Wyoming dust finally fades in his rearview mirror, he’ll miss people he’s known in the state, both for the long- and short-term. But he’s looking forward to the challenges at the Brangus Association, and the potential there for growth and promotion of the breed.
“I barely got a start at what I wanted to do,” he said. “It is my hope – and I have no control over this – but it’s my hope whoever comes in to replace me will think my personal agendas are valid and I hope whoever fills my spot, or people already on the board, will take that ball and run with it.
“I’m going to miss being able to carry those balls down the field,” Wilkes said. “This will always be home for me and I hope, someday, I’ll read in the paper where EWC has had an explosive growth in the ag and vet tech programs.”