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Five Questions With Terri (Teuber) Moore

July 25, 2019 7 minute Read

Terri (Teuber) Moore spent the first eight years of her career as a TV anchor/reporter in her native Nebraska before shifting to a public information role with the Nebraska State Patrol.  After two years as Gov. Mike Johanns’ communications director, Terri joined his team at USDA in 2005.  Her excellent work there led to two years as Deputy White House Director of Communications for Policy & Planning. When Johanns was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008, Terri rejoined him as chief of staff.  When Sen. Johanns retired from the Senate in 2014, Terri returned to the communications profession, with a focus on ag policy communications, including food integrity. Terri was recently named vice president of communications for the American Farm Bureau Federation.  In this month’s “Five Questions With…” feature, Terri’s commitment to and belief in the American farmer comes through loud and clear. 

Q:  Tell us about your new role as vice president of communications at the American Farm Bureau Federation.  What are your goals and priorities? 

Agriculture is at a crossroads of changing influences, attitudes and economics. As a powerhouse in the ag world, AFBF recognizes how critical strong communications will be in navigating the new realities. My role will be to help maximize AFBF’s unmatched platform to tell the story of agriculture and its remarkable evolution. As someone with a great deal of respect for America’s farmers and ranchers, I look forward to rolling up my sleeves in their service.

Q:  What is the state of the American farmer today?  What do you wish people outside the ag policy world understood better?

American farmers are among the most resilient, committed business people in the world. They face clear challenges ranging from erratic weather to tariffs and a deluge of restrictions, but the real story is not the challenges they’ve overcome. The real story is the opportunities they’ve seized to continuously improve. 

Today, farmers are protecting the soil, consuming less water, improving animal care, all while producing healthy, affordable food. They are technological wizards, capable financial planners, and environmentalists, all wrapped up in one. At a time when fewer Americans have a direct link to food production than ever before in history, I believe they would be surprised by the evolution of American farms.

Q:   How would you describe your leadership style, and is there a leadership lesson you took from your time in the Administration that still serves you today?

I’ve been exposed to a broad range of leadership styles throughout my career. I see it as a blessing to have had such exposure - both to strong leaders and less effective leaders. Honestly, some of the best examples came during my time in the Administration - from bosses and colleagues alike - in three specific areas: humility, respect and belief in others.  

My first boss in the Administration (Secretary Mike Johanns) demonstrated that humility is not a lack of confidence, it’s an absence of arrogance. He also respected every person, from the security guards to the sub cabinet, and while he didn’t back away from holding others accountable, he did so respectfully. I didn’t have extensive direct exposure to President Bush during my White House days, but I certainly saw glimpses of those same qualities.

I also learned the best leaders believe in their teams. They don’t demand hard work, they inspire it. They surround themselves with smart people and do everything they can to clear the runway so the team can spread their wings and fly. I mean for real. Virtually all leaders claim to have this aim, but some are too egocentric or insecure to put it into practice. It’s easy to spot when you see the power of that promise realized.

As for me, I hope I have learned to emulate those qualities. It’s a journey that requires discipline and focus every day. I’d like to think I’ve learned a thing or two from the great leaders whom I’ve had the privilege of serving.

Q:  As former chief of staff for Senator Johanns, how do you assess the state of Congress today, in particular the role key staffers can play in driving legislative accomplishments through bipartisanship? 

That’s a loaded question. I believe it begins with the member him/herself empowering staff to pursue solutions up, down and across any aisle - guided by clear principles and a willingness to listen.  

It’s also about the approach and attitudes staff themselves bring to the table. The aforementioned leadership qualities apply. There is truth in the perception that arrogance abounds and the pursuit of power reigns supreme for some. There is also the uncelebrated truth that there are humble, committed public servants on the Hill genuinely working toward solutions. They rarely make headlines and frankly, success is elusive because bipartisanship is difficult. But, for those truly committed to it, the rare wins are immensely rewarding. Most importantly, they must never give up. Breakthroughs are possible when committed public servants work tirelessly to achieve them.

Q:  Can you leave us with a favorite story or moment from your time in the Administration?

I have so many fond stories. One that stands out relates to some incredible collaboration that was never apparent to the public. Back in 2005, there was real concern about avian influenza (bird flu) - and specifically H5N1 (for the science nerds) - mutating to threaten the health of humans.

There ensued a mighty effort on the part of the federal government - including the White House and an impressive array of federal agencies - to prepare for such an outbreak. At USDA alone, we prepared nearly 400 fact-based messages to be at the ready in the event that it fell upon us to help maintain calm in times of potential chaos. Other departments engaged in similar preparation. More impressive was the way different departments pulled together to present a united front, led by White House staff.

In the end, thank goodness those messages and joint response plans were not needed. But, it was an impressive demonstration of a White House able to rally the entire federal government to collaborate in the interest of the American people. The public has no idea of the hours of labor, tremendous collaboration and deep commitment shown. In some ways, that's unfortunate. Then again, better for it to have remained untold than for it to have been exposed by crisis.