The Illinois FFA held its annual convention over the weekend, with the proceedings taking place online due to COVID-19.
At this first virtual convention, Valmeyer High School graduate Lexi Mueller was elected Illinois FFA President.
“It was absolutely insane,” Mueller said of winning. “I went up there for my acceptance speech, and I was just so taken away I don’t even remember what I said. It was just really exciting because I’ve been given a really exciting opportunity, but I don’t think it’s really set in yet.”
Mueller grew up on a small farm in Columbia. Her family had horses, chickens, sheep, and goats, and she also grew pumpkins and Indian corn.
From the age of 8, Mueller was involved in agriculture organizations like 4-H before joining Valmeyer’s FFA chapter her freshman year of high school.
“It was kind of the family tradition to be part of FFA,” Mueller said. “A lot of my family members were involved in FFA, and my uncle is the ag teacher at Valmeyer. I had a passion for agriculture, so this was just the next step for me.”
While at VHS, Mueller served as secretary and vice president of the FFA chapter. She also served as Section 22 president her senior year and graduated as Class of 2020 valedictorian.
She attended a meeting in January for FFA students considering running for state office and decided to pursue a higher elected position.
“I felt like it was a calling and something I wanted to try for, even though I may not get the office,” she explained. “It was a way that I could give back to the FFA and give back to the organization that turned me into the person that I am.”
Running for state officer involves a two-part selection process Mueller said is considered one of the hardest processes among state FFA organizations in the nation.
Prospective candidates must first talk with industry leaders, write and submit speeches, write letters and take a written test.
The selection committee then determines the top 10 candidates overall, five of which will get a state officer position. The presidential election comes first, with each candidate giving a three-minute speech.
To win the election, a candidate must win a majority of delegate votes, so voting continues in rounds with the lowest vote-getters being cut until a candidate gets a majority.
By the end of the process, Mueller got over 50 percent of the votes from more than 300 delegates at the convention.
As the state’s president, Mueller will have myriad responsibilities including determining a theme for the year, advocating and lobbying for agriculture, attending various banquets, speaking at numerous events, networking with industry professionals and doing ample public relations.
While she said she hopes to excel at those tasks, Mueller’s main goal is to help FFA students who were like her when she joined.
“I used to be kind of a shy kid, and I didn’t really come out of my shell and be confident until my sophomore year of high school,” she said. “I think that the past state officers of FFA really helped me with that. So my main goal is just finding members who maybe aren’t comfortable or don’t know what they want to do and just kind of push them and help them figure out who they are.”
Mueller is the second Monroe County FFA student to become state president in recent years, as Waterloo’s Joey Birrittier was elected to that role in 2017.
Chris Steppig and Joel Limestall of Waterloo also served as the state’s reporter and secretary, respectively, in the last decade. Valmeyer’s Joe Heavner served as state FFA treasurer starting in 2013.
After finishing her term as the third ever Valmeyer state officer, Mueller said she plans to attend Southern Illinois University Carbondale to major in ag education and minor in horticulture so she can return to Monroe County – or at least Section 22 – to teach agriculture.