Ann O'Leary, Evansville, was selected to serve as the 69th Alice in Dairyland during a finale at Watertown High School Saturday night.
The daughter of Craig and Linda O'Leary, Ann grew up showing Jerseys and Holsteins at the county, district and state level. She was heavily involved in the Rock County Jr. Holstein Association and the Rock County 4-H Program.
During the time she served as Rock County Fair Queen her county also hosted the Alice finals. She says, 'In that position I was asked to say the Pledge of Allegiance at the finals. Christine Lindner (from Dodge County) was selected and I knew then I wanted to do this. So being selected is like a dream come true.'
O'Leary studied Biology and Neuroscience at Carthage College and graduated with All College Honors in 2014. She currently works at Epic as a corporate recruiter, volunteers with the Rock County 4-H Program and serves on the Carthage College Alumni Council. 'As Alice in Dairyland, I want to share the story of Wisconsin's $88.3 billion agricultural industry with both producers and consumers,' said O'Leary. 'My goal is to educate them on the diversity of Wisconsin's agricultural industry and encourage people of all backgrounds to become advocates of Wisconsin agricultural products.'
As the new Alice, O'Leary will begin work June 1. In the 12 months that follow she will travel about 40,000 miles for speaking engagements and give lessons in more than 100 classrooms.
O'Leary said she plans to use social media to spread her message, as well as conduct media interviews that will also reach urban areas.
'It's such a unique opportunity to share the story of Wisconsin agriculture,' she said.
Other finalists in the running during the competition were Jenna Braun, Mayville; Victoria Horstman, Sparta; Kristin Klossner, New Glarus; Emily Selner, Denmark; and Joanna Wavrunek, Denmark.
Serving as judges this year were Laura Wilford, Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board; Katie Roth, Grant County Farm Service Agency; and Kathy Schimtt, DATCP-Wisconsin Farm Center. NBC 15 News Anchor Amy Pflugshaupt served as the mistress of ceremonies.
Applicants begin the process by submitting a written application to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Then those meeting the criteria are invited for a personal interview and six are chosen to compete in the finals. The selection panel traveled with the contestants as they toured Dodge County the few days prior to the selection of the winner, evaluating them in the discussion panel on Friday evening, and evaluating their writing samples, radio and TV interviews, impromptu and prepared public speaking and professionalism.
Loether bids farewell
In her final official capacity as the state's 68th Alice, Teyanna Loether said her journey over the past year has been an unforgettable experience.
'As a new journey begins, I wish the next Alice in Dairyland all the best as the legacy of Wisconsin's agriculture ambassador grows,' Loether said. 'Thank you Wisconsin, from the bottom of my heart. I am proud to be an advocate for agriculture, today, tomorrow and always.'
Loether spent a great deal of time in Dodge County during her reign as a means of highlighting the diversity of agricultural enterprises in the county hosting the 2016 finals. She said, 'It was great to learn more about the county where one of every five people are employed in agriculture. From cutting the annual Christmas tree at Propst Tree Farm, to touring local agri-businesses such as LeRoy Meats and Widmer's Cheese, I have come to treasure each piece of the county's thriving $2.86 billion agriculture history.'
Members of the Dodge County Steering Committee, co-chaired by Bonnie Borden and Bob Kaiser, worked diligently the past 15 months putting together a program worthy of promoting all that Alice does for Wisconsin agriculture. They took some time during the program to thank the many local sponsors who showed their support, and the local businesses that served as tour destinations.
Before giving up her title, Teyanna presented the 2016 Friend of Alice Award to Pam Jahnke and Bryant Gill from Midwest Family Broadcasting in Madison.
Next year's finals will be held at Brown County. Representatives from that county were on hand at this year's event.