Alexander says the opportunity to work off the operation for 10 years not only cemented his desire to return to agriculture, but provided many life skills.

“I certainly learned a lot about people and dealing with people. I learned a lot about personnel management, salesmanship, personal relationships, the financial aspects of running a business and managing budgets and quotas, and presentation and speaking skills.”

Those experiences also included a conviction on the absolute necessity to give to your industry, he says.

“I really learned the importance of getting involved and trying to make a difference in your industry. So, when I came back to the farm, I naturally joined our local association, the Stanton County Cattlemen, and that led me to state and national participation.”

Alexander credits many mentors and coaches for his development.

“I really enjoy people and what they have to offer and pass on, and I was always trying to absorb a variety of things on all parts of life and business. I learned about hard work and diligence, but also having fun and getting the most out of life.

“But if I was to single out one person above all others, it would be my father. Still today, I hear people say there was no better example of a true gentleman than Richard Alexander. It’s a great legacy he left me and it’s a tough one to live up to in this day and age,” Alexander says.

Ask him about his leadership strengths and Alexander modestly declines. “People will ask me if I was a good football player and I’ll tell them to ask someone who saw me play. I guess that’s what I would say to this question, too.”

Among those who have seen him “play” in the association arena is Bill Donald, current NCBA president and a Melville, MT, rancher.

“J.D. is really thoughtful and analytical; he analyzes a situation from every which way. That’s something I really appreciate because I tend to be a little more spontaneous; so we complement each other.

“He definitely keeps an open mind and listens to everyone’s opinions; once he’s made up his mind, he’s very forthright, but respectful. He has a great jovial demeanor, with a laugh like Santa Claus, which helps him make his points.”

As Alexander ponders the year ahead, he sees government overreach as a looming concern.

Government overreach

“There’s no shortage of issues for us to address – government overreach, excessive regulation, the death tax, etc. But we also have to make sure that we’re running a sound organization. We need the management to ensure that NCBA is at the forefront in doing the best for the nation’s beef producers.

“As an industry we also need to get together and find common ground for all producers. We can have differences of opinions – we always have and we always will – but we need to get together, because we have too many guns pointed at us as an industry for us to be shooting at each other,” he says.