TORRINGTON – United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development State Director Wally Wolski has ended his journey with the USDA, according to a release from the organization.
Wolski was appointed by former President Donald Trump after serving as the chairman for the Goshen County Board of Commissioners.
“It has truly been the honor of my lifetime serving under the Trump Administration,” Wolski said. “I am extremely proud of the difference we made in people’s lives by providing hope to rural communities during these challenging times.”
Before applying for the position, Wolski was encouraged to submit his application in May of 2019 by Goshen County Attorney Eric Boyer. At first, Wolski was hesitant to apply because he thought he was “too old” for the position.
After some further convincing by Boyer, Wolski decided to throw his name into the hat for the position.
“I went home and thought about it all weekend,” Wolski said. “I told my wife, ‘I’m gonna put in for it,’ and I said ‘you know, if I’m gonna put in for it, I’m gonna get it.’”
Wolski interviewed for the job a month later in June, and then was officially sworn into office July 22, 2019.
His first few months on the job, he experienced a steep learning curve. The biggest challenge he faced was backfilling a number of key positions on his staff which was less than 50% of the authorized workers under his leadership.
“The initial objective, after coming up to speed, was developing an administrative team and executive leadership team by Jan. 1, 2020,” Wolski said.
Once he finally had his staff in place and worked through some of the learning curves of his new position, he was finally able to get to work on his game plan for 2020: to travel to every part of the state meeting with the local municipal and county governments, state agencies and local economic developers.
He planned to enact a proactive awareness campaign emphasising the empowerment of local communities while establishing a working relationship with various agencies and external organizations.
In March of 2020, his plans were suddenly forced to quickly change due to the shutdown caused by the pandemic.
“We all began teleworking remotely from home and all travel was curtailed indefinitely,” Wolski said. “I began focusing upon the ABC’s of rural prosperity – affordable rural housing, relending programs for rural businesses and public safety programs of building community infrastructure.”
Throughout the year, Wolski stayed busy participating in numerous weekly teleconference calls on issues regarding the pandemic. He had to coordinate with various federal partners such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Health and Human Services (HHS).
In addition to the weekly teleconferences, Wolski was also selected to serve on Governor Mark Gordon’s Business Support Task Force, which primarily focused on the financial impact the pandemic was having on Wyoming businesses.
While the pandemic put a damper on many of the plans Wolski had for 2020, he was still proud of the work he was able to accomplish.
“I am particularly happy the very first loan I had the opportunity to approve was not only here in Goshen County, but from my Yoder community for Western Proppants,” Wolski said.
Some of the other notable accomplishments that Wolski reflected on were a $25 million CARES Act loan for a coal mine in the Powder River Basin and the first loan in the United States that was approved during the pandemic for a critical access hospital in Saratoga.
Wolski acknowledged that everything didn’t go according to plan in 2020, but he wanted to thank his staff and is walking away from the “once-in-a-lifetime experience,” knowing he tried his best under difficult circumstances and left “a turnkey operation” for his successor who will be filled by President Biden’s administration.
“I enjoyed each and every step on this amazing journey that ended on Jan. 20,” Wolski said. “Just remember, when rural Wyoming prospers, all Wyoming prospers.”