March 16, 2023

Everywhere Radio: Trisha Purdon + Beth Haskovec


What is an Office of Rural Prosperity? Both Kansas and Wisconsin have them, and on this episode we talk with the two women charged with running them: Beth Haskovec, from Wisconsin, and Trisha Purdon, of Kansas. 

Statewide Offices of Rural Prosperity are dedicated to ensuring rural stakeholders are part of the equation, across policy, capital, resource management — and that rural people and places are connected to those programs and pathways that contribute to community prosperity.

About our guests

Beth Haskovec is the Director for the Office of Rural Prosperity within the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). In this role, Beth works to advance rural Wisconsin through interagency collaboration and resource navigation. Priorities of the Office include broadband access & accessibility, rural housing, ecosystem building at the local and regional levels, small business & entrepreneurship, and promoting rural culture through placemaking and tourism.

Beth comes to the Office of Rural Prosperity from LISC, one of the nation’s largest CDFIs, where she oversaw strategies and programs related to access to capital for small businesses across Rural America, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. She brings a wealth of expertise in commercial real estate development, commercial corridor development, small business capital, entrepreneurship and initiatives at the intersection of arts and culture and economic development. Originally, Beth is from a one stop light county in rural Iowa. She brings this passion for rural communities and culture to her role as the Director of Rural Prosperity.


Trisha Purdon is the Director of the Office of Rural Prosperity in the Kansas Department of Commerce. She attended the University of Kansas where she earned a master’s degree in Public Administration with a focus on local government Management and a Bachelor’s degree in Social Welfare with a focus on public policy. Trisha has worked as a rural economic developer in both city and county-level leadership roles for over a decade. She grew up in the small town of Kiowa, Kansas, and is a graduate of Chaparral High School in Anthony, Kansas.


Watch the interview

Whitney Kimball Coe: Welcome back to Everywhere Radio. I’m your host, Whitney Kimball Coe Kimball Coe Kimball Coe, and I’m thrilled to introduce you to my guests today. Beth Haskovec is from a one stoplight county in rural Iowa and now lives and works in Wisconsin. Trisha Purdon grew up in the small town of Kiowa, Kansas, and both of these women now serve as the director of their respective states’ offices of rural prosperity. That’s right. Wisconsin and Kansas both have an office of rural prosperity. How cool is that? I need to get my Everywhere Radio team to fact check me on this. But I think these two states are the only states with such an office. Beth and Trisha can elaborate more on their mission, but in general, a statewide office of rural prosperity exists to ensure rural stakeholders are part of the equation, across policy, capital, resource management, that rural people and places are connected to those programs and pathways that contribute to community prosperity.

I met Beth Haskovec and Trisha Purdon many months ago when we were preparing for one of our Everywhere virtual events, and it struck me then how incredible it would be if every state had a rural office to connect the dots across state programs and policies and help ensure that we see rural as a part of the future that we envision for our states. So I’m really excited to have Beth Haskovec and Trisha Purdonhere to tell us more about their work,  about these offices for rural prosperity, and to hear more about their background. So Beth Haskovec and Trisha, thank you so much for joining me today. I’m really glad you’re here.

Beth Haskovec: Thanks for having us, Whitney Kimball Coe Kimball Coe.

Trisha Purdon: Yeah, thank you. We’re excited.

Whitney Kimball Coe: Well, I wanted to ask each of you to give me a snapshot of who you are and where you come from. If you’ll tell me your rural story, that’s what I’m interested in here today. I wonder, Beth, would you mind going  first? Tell me a little about yourself.

Beth Haskovec: Sure. So I’m from Waukon, Iowa. It’s in the part of Iowa that people don’t know a lot about, which is the hilly part of Iowa. It’s in the Driftless Region, off of the Mississippi River, I think one of the most beautiful parts of the state. And as you mentioned, one stoplight in the county. So both my parents were teachers, so I’ve always had a commitment to government service and an interest in the public good. And both of them were children of farmers. And so, that aspect of rural life was really important to my family growing up. My dad basically grew a subsistence farm. He didn’t call it that, but essentially, that’s what it was. We had a root cellar and they canned vegetables, and just a lot of the values of self-reliance were something that I grew up with and that kind of shaped who I was and wanting to get into public service.

And also, growing up rural, my passion for economic development work started in rural America, having to drive an hour to go to buy clothing or find restaurants. I was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin, because it was the nearest major hospital. So just really understanding [00:03:30] some of the challenges that rural Americans face in accessing resources was something that was part of my upbringing, and I think it helps shape the work that I’m doing now in the Office of Rural Prosperity. I kind of took a jagged path. I went and did international development work as a Peace Corps volunteer. Then I lived on the East Coast for a few years in rural Vermont and in DC, just kind of trying to figure out my path. Ended up in Milwaukee and was doing urban development work for a while, and then, really decided I needed to get back to my roots.

And so, the company I was working for had a national rural program, and I went and worked for them for about a year and a half, until this role opened up. And it’s just been a great homecoming for me. I love urban development work, but really, this has been an opportunity for me to reconnect to where I’m from. And I think there’s no greater time to be investing in rural communities than right now. So it’s just been this perfect kind of convergence of my life experiences, that have brought me to this role. And I’ve been here since the end of June in 2022, and it’s been a phenomenal experience so far.

Whitney Kimball Coe: That’s beautiful. And I have more questions for you about all of that, that you just offered, but I also want to hear Trisha’s rural story. Because I wonder where they overlap.

Trisha Purdon: Yeah, I definitely think there’s some similarities. I grew up in Kiowa, Kansas, which is right on the border of Kansas and Oklahoma. I would say south central to western. It’s kind of cut off between the two, nestled in the Gyp Hills of Kansas. So it’s where everything is flat. And then, suddenly, you see canyons in Kansas. That’s where I grew up. I think Ted Turner has a massive Buffalo ranch there now. It’s pretty neat. But population 900. I loved living in Kiowa and went off to university and went to KU and became a Jayhawk. And when my husband and I were trying to find out what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go, we really fell in love with Independence, Kansas. And that’s where our office is now. It’s where I’m at right now, was doing economic development here for quite some time.

[00:06:00] But again, kind of what Beth was saying, I was passionate about moving to rural and staying in rural. And what we like to say is “rural by choice,” here in Kansas. My family came over in the 18 hundreds, and I think they came up a boat and a raft up the Mississippi River. And they crossed over. So we have a pioneer heritage in our family and really kind of have that culture in our family, in our heritage, of kind of pull yourself out by the bootstraps and embrace your neighbors and be part of the community. And that really was ingrained in me with my parents and my grandparents. My mom was a nurse, my dad was a railroader, so my grandma was an artist. So it was kind of this mixed bag of small town folks, that really inspired me to stay with that.

And so, went into economic development, because that was fun. And it was the cool part of local government management. But really fell in love with it and saw ways that it wasn’t just bringing new jobs to rural communities, but building the community as a whole, of bringing about housing and childcare opportunities and thinking about how arts and culture and placemaking all kind of coincides together to really make economic development happen. And that’s very different in rural communities, I think, than urban. So I got selected for this position back in… It was like this time last two years ago, started in June of 2021 at the Office of Rural Prosperity. Governor Kelly created the office in 2019. So it’s fairly new. And then, when the position was opening up, they requested that I fill it, and I’ve loved it ever since. It’s been a whirlwind, like Beth said, but we’ve got a lot accomplished in the last 18 months.

Whitney Kimball Coe: Thank you so much for sharing some of your all’s stories and your background and your affiliation and connection to rural people and places. And was I right in my intro about Kansas and Wisconsin being the only states with this specific kind of office, Office of Rural Prosperity? Do you know?

Beth Haskovec: We’re starting to learn. We’ve been talking with a few other states. There’s some rural development offices. We’ve been chatting with Michigan, but we haven’t had a chance to get together with each other to really understand how their offices compare to our offices of rural prosperity.

Beth Haskovec: I was just going to say Wisconsin started their Office of Rural Prosperity in 2020, so we were a little behind Kansas on that. So yeah, it’s still very new, and we look at it as kind of a startup, where we’re building the ship as we’re sailing it, for sure.

Trisha Purdon: Ours were kicked off with a big listening tour, to see if it needed to be happening or not. So it’s been cool.

Whitney Kimball Coe: Yeah. I wanted to ask you about that, Trisha, the listening tour that brought this into being. What were some of the key things that you heard on that tour, that ultimately resulted in this office?

Trisha Purdon: So when they created the office, they really just needed to see, if there was going to be an office like this, what should they be focusing on? Because rural can cover everything. 95% of our state is rural, geographically anyway. So they really focused in on what the citizens heard in all those listening sessions. So they really came up with housing, childcare, broadband, and infrastructure, economic development, healthcare, of course, and just general community development, which includes arts and culture and placemaking. Those were the highlights, but number one, number two were definitely housing, childcare, and healthcare, number three. I don’t know if they’re ranked, but definitely the top ones [00:10:30] that came out, that they just needed [inaudible 00:10:34].

Whitney Kimball Coe: Was there a similar process, Beth, in Wisconsin?

Beth Haskovec: Yeah, so we worked with the Aspen Institute to create something called the Rural Voices Report, based on three different listening sessions across the state, which I love, because I feel like the power of rural communities is people getting sitting down at that kitchen table and just talking through solutions to problems that they’re facing. And the power of the state to be able to open up that conversation and really be listening and use those comments and the input from communities across the state to shape an agenda, I think, is unique. And that doesn’t always happen, that we’re that proactive in seeking input in the way that we’re shaping the work that gets done.

Whitney Kimball Coe: When I think about the key issues that would’ve come up in those listening sessions, and Trisha named some of them, childcare, as one, job creation, all of those pieces, those feel like universal desires, needs, for a prospering economy and a prospering community, no matter how big or small. So I wonder then, why is it so important that we’re focusing on rural here? That’s sort of the big question, I guess, for even for an organization like Center for Rural Strategies and the Rural Assembly. Why is it so important that we’re lifting up rural voices within the context of these universal needs.

Trisha Purdon: And when it came to building and investing in new housing in a rural community and putting…Building and investing in new housing in a rural community and putting in the infrastructure, bringing a developer to town, putting all that together, we were seeing that developers just couldn’t make it cash flow. And so they just repeatedly were not going out into the rural communities and making that business case for developing new housing and new childcare centers in these rural areas.

But it’s very, very profitable to do it in an urban area. Wichita is growing, Kansas City, Overland Park is growing. But we weren’t seeing those developers say, “Okay, well, I’ll do 25% of my business is going to be in rural and 75 in urban.” That just wasn’t happening. And so we had to figure out a way to not just provide a carrot to help get them there, but really provide that business case and the case for Kansas that you should invest in the whole state to make the whole state prosper.


Beth Haskovec: We’re seeing the same struggles with rural housing. I think that to your point, a lot of these issues are universal, but I think sometimes structurally there’s different reasons why they’re happening in rural communities. And so it’s looking at the same issue, but figuring out the why behind it and kind of going upstream to find the source of the problem.

And so oftentimes, rural communities, because they’re so efficient in the way that they operate, they’re relying on volunteers to do work that professionals are doing in larger  communities or urban areas. And so there’s just a reality of, I think about all the issues that Trisha and I are thinking through and working on and there’s probably 15 different topic areas that we have to know at least a little about in order to navigate our roles.

And then to say somebody with a full-time job that’s a part-time town clerk or administrator is being asked to have that same knowledge base and be able to navigate these things and then be able to apply for funding through the state or federal government and to solve an issue in their community is just, it’s a challenge that’s very different than urban communities that have a whole team of engineers and grant writers and project managers to address some of these issues.

So that’s been a huge focus of our first couple of years, is really that resource navigation piece and how do we help communities better understand what resources are out there and provide a little bit of support for them talking through the process of grant writing, talking through what they need to have in place to be compliant so they can get the resources needed? Especially [00:16:30] now with all of the federal dollars coming into the states  

Whitney Kimball Coe: Well, I’m glad you brought up all the federal dollars that are coming in. I wonder how is your offices, how are they positioned to help translate those dollars and make sure that they are connecting to rural stakeholders as well?

Beth Haskovec: I inherited a bipartisan infrastructure law task force that was really focused on helping communities understand what was available. Through that legislation, we created a website with all the links to all the state agencies and what resources they had available as well as a spreadsheet that kind of went over some of the competitive funding that communities can apply for directly to the federal government. And just what is this legislation? What does it mean? What types of funding are in this? And so just making it a lot easier for people to understand, is this something I can go after?

And also, historically matching dollars has been a problem for rural communities. They just don’t have the budgets to go after some of those federal dollars. And so helping them understand that that was taken into consideration in some of these grant programs and the same match requirements that have been typically required have been waived or altered through this legislation to really help rural communities.

So that’s been a great, I think, early win for our office and just building those relationships with other agencies, getting agencies together and going out into communities and kind of doing a roadshow to share what resources each have available has been part of that work as well. And we’ve been working to set up a grant writing pilot pairing graduate students with communities to help write some of those grants too. So that’s in the works for us.

Whitney Kimball Coe:  One of the cool things I think about of Beth and I’s relationship is that we can share ideas, and they’ve done such a fantastic concept of how they’re rolling out the bipartisan infrastructure law and how they’re getting that out to the communities in a very relatable and easy to understand, easy to follow way. That’s a big challenge.

Like Beth had said, we have a lot of volunteers who are doing this. We have a lot of city clerks and county clerks who are doing this. City and county commissioners that have no experience in writing a massive USDA grant. They don’t have that experience doing that.

So something we did that’s a little different from Beth Haskovec is we did a kind of convening for all these folks who are volunteers mostly to do basic trainings on if you’re interested in water, we’re going to have four or five very intense training sessions on the different water programs that are coming up. You can pick and choose from water, you can pick and choose from transportation, you can pick and choose from broadband, and really learn what’s [00:20:00] going to be available and what’s coming up. And we had experts come in to kind of walk them through that.

And now we’re having those trainings go down into regional planning groups. So regional planning commissions, CDCs, whoever is willing to kind of take that on and help those communities. And doing it on a regional level, it’s a little bit more attainable for them, it kind of reduces the workload. But I definitely think we’re going to be stealing some ideas from Beth Haskovec and Wisconsin for the [00:20:30] grad student idea. I just think that’s brilliant.

Whitney Kimball Coe: Mm-hmm.

Trisha Purdon: And I think that’s the whole point of the Offices of Rural Prosperity. And other states hopefully adding these offices is that we can share these ideas to be more helpful and more accessible for rural or rural Americans.

Whitney Kimball Coe:  

If you could describe for me kind of what is a day in the life of Beth? What’s a day in the life of Trisha when you walk into your office and where do you turn first.

Trisha Purdon: first things first is what’s up on the docket at the legislature room? How do I help out our team? There’s a lot of communities who are trying to get legislation passed, so this is that busy season, so trying to help them with that.

But we work in a team. Our office really, we’ve kind of divvied up our responsibilities and right now we’re rolling out a ton of grants, so we’re just every day checking in on all the grant funds and where those things are and trying to keep our heads above water, helping everyone get through that process.

But that’s our day-to-day of just, okay, we got a grant to rehabilitate downtown buildings. Now we’ve got a grant that’s going to help with childcare and senior seminars and libraries, and let’s make sure those funds are out. And now we have another grant that’s going to focus on public art and murals and getting those funds out. And now we’re doing office hours because there’s just too much between bill and the grants that we’re rolling out at Commerce. There’s just too much.

So now we’re doing office hours, two hours just going to hop on Zoom and I’m just going to be there. If anyone has a question or something major that’s going on in the community, just going to be there. They can hop on, hop off and just ask questions.

It’s the benefit of everyone learning Zoom now. And so trying to just be accessible and help put out fires. But we have a great team that covers the state and gets out on the road and helps answer those questions too. So it’s not just me.

Beth Haskovec: I would say this week is a great, great example of kind of what my daily life looks like because it’s totally different every week, and this week it’s been driving to the western part of the state to attend a meeting to look at the collaboration that’s happening across five different governments to create a new road and do a new road project.

Then I’ve been at two events this week to talk about the governor designating two counties in Wisconsin as an SBA hub zone to help small businesses better compete for federal contracts, and what that process looks like in helping businesses navigate that process and making sure they know where to go to get the information they need in order to apply to be a hub zone business.

At the same time I’m chatting with my team on Teams about a sponsorship that we’re doing for an outdoor recreation event. Outdoor recreation is huge in Wisconsin. It’s an $8.7 billion industry each year. And so we’re partnering with Tourism and their Office of Outdoor Recreation because a lot of those spaces are in rural Wisconsin. So figuring out that sponsorship and how we want to promote and collaborate together on that.

We have a deadline on the 15th for a co-op feasibility grant, so working with my team to get those last applications in to help businesses start or look at the co-op model and decide if that’s something that they want to explore for their business and helping do the feasibility for them to understand what that might look like and create that roadmap for them.

And then we’re applying regional collaboration, something Trisha mentioned. It’s so important to our work and working with those regional planning commissions and economic development organizations. So we’re applying to a federal opportunity to get some technical assistance to better align our rural plan at the state level with all of the regional community economic development plans and including the Great Lakes and our tribal council in that as well, and understanding how the economic development needs at the regional level and at the tribal level align with the state. So getting that application written while I’m driving and working with my guess my why is I go back home and I see my hometown, and it’s dropped. The population was probably 1,200 when I was in high school there and now it’s down to 900, and you don’t see a lot that they’re trying. Well, at that time. Now they are, but the momentum that they needed to get going. I’ve lived in Kansas almost my entire life, and chose to come back to rural Kansas for my career. Every town has amazing gems in it across the state. I see these small towns, and they’re the lifeblood of the culture of our state. They’re why our state is what it is. We’re the nicest state in America and it’s because of these small towns, and I don’t want to see them dwindle and die away. I want to see them come back.

I was in economic development for 10 years here in Montgomery County and we did so many cool things, but what made me the proudest was we were working on a big project that was ag focused, and the impact that this one little project would have. It covered two hours’ radius of the community, and every little small town and every farmer that was going to get to be a part of that was going to be impacted. I kept thinking that, I mean, this is how we do it, right? It’s thinking about it in a way that it’s big-picture. 

I saw us make a difference here in Montgomery County, so now I do it at the state level, and I’m very passionate about it. I go to ai ll these small towns and I see, like the community of Matfield Green, which I thought was a truck stop on the Interstate. I felt really bad, because that’s what the name of the truck stop was, but it’s a tiny, tiny town nestled in the Flint Hills in the most beautiful place on Earth. It was down to just a few houses, and now they’ve grown their population by 30 people in the last few years.

They went from 60 to now they’re at 90 people, and it’s become this amazing arts hub where the symphony gathers every year to play in the Flint Hills. Musicians are coming to record their music, and artists are coming to paint the hills and the sunsets and the stars of Kansas. That’s the kind of thing that makes me happy and that’s my why, because you can turn things around, even if you get down to the smallest population. You just have to  their why, “Why is our town so unique and why is our town special,” and help them get through that.

Whitney Kimball Coe: Beautiful.

Beth Haskovec: That’s really beautiful, Trisha. I think my why goes back to my origin story and having an ornery grandfather. He always called himself ornery. We didn’t call him that. He called himself that. An ornery farmer, and a really strong mom who was just like, “This is how we do things. We show up for community. We show up for family.” Those things really shaped who I am, and I think that that’s a large part of my why.

At the same time, I grew up in the ’80s. There was a lot happening in rural America in the ’80s, a lot of changes to family farms, a lot of changes to the economics that impacted rural communities. The America I was seeing on television and in the media was not the America that I knew. I became a very nomadic person, searching for something. I didn’t know what I was searching for. I spent my 20s living abroad and living in other places across the  country. A lot of that was just feeling like, “Okay, where do I belong, and what should I be doing?”

I left my community, which happens way too often in rural communities. We lose so much talent, because there’s this sense of is there opportunity here for me, how do I make a living. Luckily, I think there’s some opportunity now with remote work to shift that a little bit for those who want to. I think just those values have followed me.

The reason I love rural development work so much is because it is so much heart. It is so much about relationships and about people and how welcoming and open people are, once you get to know them and are willing to pull up your sleeves and get work done. I love that. One of my mom’s favorite quotes is, “May you always have enough and plenty for the day. May you never have enough to waste or throw away.” I think it just speaks to the resourcefulness of rural communities, and something that was just ingrained in me.


Whitney Kimball Coe : What is a frustration that you carry with you in this work, or a challenge that you feel like you’re constantly having to push through. Are you making headway? Do you feel like you’re making some headway?

Trisha Purdon: Our biggest challenge probably comes from trust and also capacity, so a little bit of both. It’s been some time since a state that geographically is mostly rural … and I know it’s probably the same in Wisconsin. The counties and these communities learned to be resilient and depend on themselves, and not have the state be involved with anything and support them in any way. That was the culture that’s historically happened, because there wasn’t someone that said, “I’m your person. If you have a problem, call me. Let’s walk through it. I’ll pair you up with someone.”

That didn’t exist, and so communities stopped applying for funds. They stopped going after programs that are being created, because it was seen as a handout and too much red tape, and, “Bureaucracy gets too hard, and let’s just figure it out ourselves.” We’re trying to build that relationship back up, and build that trust back up in a way that is very sincere and open and it’s a relationship. It’s not a, “I am the state and you are the town.” That doesn’t exist in my world, and that’s my goal, but also capacity.

In communities, when you do get that bright up-and-comer, they get snatched up real quick. Then the communities kept seeing this happen over and over again in their communities too, and so it made it hard to get that relationship from the state to the community built. It also kept that community from moving forward, and they kept in that hamster wheel over and over again. Trying to help those communities not just build up one person, but build up the community and a team in each community, was something that we were pretty passionate about doing.

I’ll tell you a funny story. When I took this job, I had just finished one of the biggest economic development projects in Montgomery County, and a friend from a neighboring county was like, “You realize you went from doing this in one county to doing it in a hundred counties, right? Did you do the math? Do you have the capacity to handle this?” There was just two people in the Office of Rural Prosperity at the time. Now we have five. Yeah, I was like, “Oh, yeah, good call. I need at least a hundred more people across the state to do this work. It takes time and you see that turnover, and it’s frustrating.

Whitney Kimball Coe : Yeah, absolutely. Somebody quoted something to me the other day that feels appropriate to hear about. “If you want to get there fast, you go alone. If you want to get there sustainably, you go together.” That takes a longer time.

Trisha Purdon: Yeah, it’s longer.

Beth Haskovec: Yeah, that takes longer. I think there’s sometimes this urgency to act and demonstrate  impact, and you need to take that time to build those relationships and build that cohesion so there’s that level of synergy. That’s certainly a challenge. I think for me, coming into an office that was about a year and a half old and being in the role for seven months now, the Rural Voices report was 95 pages long and covered 15, 16 different topics with different recommendations.

To me it’s been about prioritization, and then doing that both simultaneously for the Office of Rural Prosperity and then understanding WEDC, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation where we’re housed, and their programs and how our strategy fits within the larger organization. It’s just navigating strategic priorities and really getting to that point where you know like, “Okay, no, these are the five things that we’re really going to focus in and go deep on for now,” knowing that everything else is still important. If we don’t make those choices, we can spin a lot of wheels and take a lot [00:39:00] longer to really have an impact

Trisha Purdon: Yeah.

Whitney Kimball Coe: Absolutely.

Trisha Purdon: I agree with that.

Whitney Kimball Coe: You all are so inspiring, doing such important work. Before I let you go, I want to ask you the question I get to ask everyone on this podcast. What are you reading or watching or what sort of media are you taking in that has inspired you or challenged you, maybe, in good ways these days?

Trisha: I just started reading this book that… I’ll show it, this is the book . Oh, I had it sitting on my desk because I’ve been trying to tackle reading it on my lunch hour every day. But it just broke. I think they just dropped it, but they gave me an early addition, luckily. But it’s the KLC, the Kansas Leadership Center. When everyone leads, the toughest challenges get seen and solved. It’s kind of their framework on leadership that I find very relatable and easy to digest. I read a lot of books, good to great, and all the big ones that say, “This is how you should be a leader in your organization. But this one kind of breaks it down to, “Okay, now you have this challenge, now you have this challenge.” And gives me some ideas and thoughts that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. So far it’s really, really good and I think I’ve really enjoyed it.

Whitney Kimball Coe: That’s really great, Trisha.

Trisha Purdon: They had a different version out earlier, but I really like it.

Whitney Kimball Coe: Did you say it was from the Kansas Leadership Center? Is that what I heard you say?

Trisha Purdon: Yeah, Kansas Leadership Center, I think it just dropped out, dropped on Amazon last week. It’s really good so far. As for media, I love to read some of the local stuff honestly. Kansas Sampler Foundation loves to put out some really cool stuff about little wins in small towns across our state that I wouldn’t find out about otherwise so I feel really in touch with those folks. It keeps me kind of grounded in the work that we’re doing. But I really love to see some of this other work that’s happening across the state too or across the United States. I stalk Beth Haskovec’s website.

Beth Haskovec: Great. Great reading material.

Whitney Kimball Coe Kimball Coe: That’s great.

Trisha: I’m a nerd. I really am.

Whitney Kimball Coe: I was going to ask, Trisha, is there anything that’s a little bit lighter fair that you’re also enjoying right now?

Trisha Purdon: I am enjoying this book…

Whitney Kimball Coe: Is it work related?

Trisha Purdon: That was a Facebook ad. No, but it is about a girl who’s trying to raise her kid as a single mom on the prairie, which I’m a kid… My parents got divorced when I was five, so I’m a single… I was raised by my single mom and living basically on the prairie, and I think that’s just really cool. But I can’t remember who the author is now. I think it’s called The Four Wins.

Whitney Kimball Coe: Okay. Oh, that’s interesting. Hannah book, right? Kristen Hannah.

Trisha Purdon: Yeah, Kristen Hannah.

Whitney Kimball Coe: Yeah.

Trisha Purdon: Yeah, that’s who it is. Yeah.  I love my non-fiction.

Whitney Kimball Coe: Okay.

Trisha Purdon: Especially as I’m driving across our big state. It’s a seven-hour trek from one corner to the other, so I listen to a lot of books.

Whitney Kimball Coe: Okay, that’s great.

Beth Haskovec: I have a little bit of a different spin, probably less work related. Post pandemic, I’ve just been looking for those little moments of beauty or just the magic of life, just reconnecting to that and trying to have that better balance between my work and my life. I’ve been reading a lot of poetry. I’ve revisited a Rumi book that I’ve had on my shelf forever. A Rumi book of poetry. I revisited a Nicki Giovanni book of Poetry on love poems. I love Orion Magazine. That’s one that I go back to again and again. That includes a lot of poetry, but also stories about conservation and the natural world. I worked at a summer camp when I was a young person for six summers. Just kind of reconnecting to that part of myself too. Especially when it’s cold and you can’t get outside too much, reading those short stories and reading those poems to kind of stay connected to the natural world has been really great during the winter.

Whitney Kimball Coe: Oh, that’s great. Thank you for the recommendations. I was also a camp counselor in the summers and it was just magical and it’s a big part of… You can’t help but make it a part of your identity somehow. It’s really important…

Beth Haskovec: Yeah.

Whitney Kimball Coe: Formation for me.

Beth Haskovec: Yeah.

Whitney Kimball Coe: Well, thank you for those recommendations.

Beth Haskovec: First call with my… Yeah, that part of your identity with being a camp counselor. I brought it up in my first team call with my staff. It’s really important for me to create a space for everybody to show up authentically. We still have to focus on work and bring our work selves to the table, but to be able to do that in a way that resonates with who everybody is and their work styles is really important, and I think I really got that from being in that space as a young person.

Whitney Kimball Coe: Oh, I aspire to that. That’s wonderful. Well, thank you both for this conversation. It’s been wonderful to hear from you. I love how you all know one another already and you’re already working together and it’s so clear that you’ve built a lot of trust and connection across your states and within your relationship, and that’s really delightful to witness. Thank you for being here.

Trisha Purdon: Thank you for having us. This was fun. We’ll do it again if you ever want to hear more nerdy stories about government work and what we’re doing in small towns.

Whitney Kimball Coe: Yeah.

Trisha Purdon: No, it’s…

Whitney Kimball Coe Kim: There’s definitely an audience for that too, for sure. Yeah, I look forward to it.

Beth Haskovec: This was great, Whitney. Thank you for your insightful questions too, and your clear passion for rural people and places. It was really fun and time flew by. 

Trisha Purdon: I know. That’s crazy.

Whitney Kimball Coe: Yeah.

Trisha Purdon: I agree. Thank you so much, Whitney Kimball Coe. This has been really wonderful.