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Press Celebrates Clayton County Champion

[Note Iowa Rural Development Council/Power of Connection reference]


Going Places. Here at Home: Jenna Pollock

This is one in a series of articles highlighting the latest generation of innovators making a difference in our communities.

Conservation director has passion for Clayton County, nature and being positive

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register

It’s all about focusing on the positive and not dwelling on the negative for Jenna Pollock, the executive director of the Clayton County Conservation Board. 

The attitude is rooted in her rural roots, growing up in Clayton County and attending Valley Community School. It’s an attitude built on the work ethic and moral compass formed by an upbringing on the family farm, where she was instilled with a “love of nature and a broader understanding of my relationship with the natural world,” she said 

This attitude, and a job opening for the director position, which appealed to her on a “personal level,” brought Pollock back to Clayton County after a three-year run in Emmet County, where she worked as a naturalist. 

“I applied in the hopes that I could have the opportunity to be closer to family,” she said. 

Being closer to family means being able to help her dad on the family farm—time she wouldn’t trade for anything. Pollock was also familiar with the organization, having spent time there as an intern while attending college. It was an experience she said got her “hooked on environmental education, development and delivery of programming and outreach.” 

In her current position, Pollock is able to serve on different boards and commissions, collect public feedback, help with community building and advocate for the people of Clayton County. 

Of course, there is the natural beauty of Clayton County itself, with a “landscape that captured my heart,” Pollock explained. 

Entering her seventh year as director, she remains passionate about what northeast Iowa has to offer, from being rich in development and engaging its people to providing a diversity of entertainment options. These things are necessary for attracting other and future young professionals to the area. 

Clayton County Conservation, along with partners like Alpine Communications, the Iowa Area Development Group and the Iowa Rural Development Council, are launching a marketing campaign for the county. While there is a plethora of outdoor recreation activities that attract people and families to the area, there are other factors as well, such as the expansion of broadband services. 

“The growing and diverse network of young professionals in Clayton County is a largely untold story. ‘Attracting Success’ is a marketing campaign that engages young adults and young families, and encourages them to play, work and live in Clayton County,” Pollock said. 

But she also mentioned something else—something more specific as a potential motivating factor for people moving to Clayton County: COVID-19. 

“With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there’s definitely a greater appreciation for less populated areas, like rural Clayton County, that check all the boxes for quality of life: affordability, an active community, cultural entertainment and scenic beauty,” she explained. 

In her role as conservation director, Pollock’s name and face might be unfamiliar, but her impact on the region is undeniable, especially as it pertains to community visioning plans and bringing them to fruition. But Pollock is humble in her approach and acceptance of praise, refusing to take all the credit. 

Instead, she lavishes acclaim on the “tremendous teamwork, a supportive board and a growing resource of young professionals and mentors.” 

She also gives credit to her ability to listen, solicit feedback and advocate for solutions that best serve the community. 

“I endeavor to remain approachable and open to ideas that grow our community…to be a good steward of the resources I have at my disposal,” Pollock said. 

“My accomplishments are really community accomplishments. I wouldn’t stand out without support, endorsement of ideas, feedback and financial support from the community,” she added. 

As for the challenges Pollock has faced along the way, she doesn’t really dwell on them, rather suggesting that, without them, there would be no motivation to spur change. One thing challenges have taught her is not to give up too easily. 

“I’m a problem solver by nature,” she said. 

When it comes to other young professionals or those aspiring to contribute to the community in a similar way, Pollock offered the idea of introspection: focus not on the flaws of others, but the motivations that fuel the pursuit of change in your professional work, community activism and volunteering. 

That will have “more bearing on your success,” she said.  

“Let your passions guide your actions. See if you can connect what feeds your soul with other organizations in the community,” she noted. 

Pollock is, predictably, optimistic about the future. She’s always finding the positive in every situation. Even when the day is difficult, she wants to discover how it helped her grow as an individual, how it spurred an idea for change.

Pollock’s only allusion to negativity is directed at those who do not care for the resources at their disposal. This harkens back to her upbringing on the family farm and respecting her place within the natural world. 

Pollock, then, is not just the director of the Clayton County Conservation Board, but a caretaker of nature. Through the chaos, she finds the beauty. 

“I choose to highlight the positives and really tell the story of successes, whether they’re small or large. We’re a busy culture and we hop from one task to another, often times forgetting to celebrate our accomplishments,” she said.

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