Outgoing GFB President Gerald Long reflects on his tenure
Gerald Long served as Georgia Farm Bureau’s 12th president from January 2016 through Dec. 8. During his term, GFB initiated some key projects to advance the Georgia agriculture cause. Notably, a research grant program and the production of the Georgia Ag Experience mobile classroom were launched under Long’s watch, during which he guided GFB through devasting losses from Hurricane Michael and the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic.
Long began serving on the GFB Board of Directors in 1999, serving as a 9th District director. He went on to serve as GFB South Georgia vice president and GFB 1st vice president before succeeding Zippy Duvall as president. In 2018, Long announced that he would not seek re-election when his last two-year term ended in 2020. Prior to the GFB presidential election on Dec. 8, Long looked back on his time as GFB president during a recent phone call with GFB News Reporter Jay Stone.
On GFB’s strategy to operate during the pandemic: We led. I’m so thankful that when the coronavirus started in March, March 12, how Farm Bureau stepped up to the plate, and we were out in front of it. When I talked to the governor later on, he commended our organization for stepping up and doing what we’ve done, our protocol to help protect our employees. It’s been a challenge for us all. There’s no doubt. I think our organization has stepped up and said look, if you’ve got kids at home and you need to go take care of them, go take care of your kids. Kids were no longer in school, and they canceled school. Our organization worked with them extremely well. But then in return the employees have been very understanding and thankful we’ve not laid off the first employee because of the coronavirus. I think that within itself is phenomenal. We’ve been able to maintain our employees and to work with them, and in return they have worked with us, just tremendous.
On feedback about the pandemic approach: I think we’re one of the very few organizations that have protected our employees the way we have and following the guidelines from the governor, social distancing, wearing face masks. At one point in time, some of the people in the organization thought maybe we were overreacting. My answer to them was, absolutely I hope we are. Not for one minute did I want to underreact and then cause issues that we would regret. We’ve had some employees who have come down with it, but I think it’s been minimal compared to a lot of companies or organizations that maybe did not take the precautions maybe they should have.
On his intention to step away at the end of 2020: Well, you know when I came in, I told everyone I came in contact with that I was, if the voting delegates wanted me, I was willing to stay four years and 11 months. I think that was necessary at the time for a lot of the changes we’ve had to implement. I think it put me and it put the organization in a position to do things that maybe we’ve never done before. I hope I’ve left it in better shape than I found it, and I certainly hope that whoever the next president is, that that person leaves it in better shape than they found it from me. I think that’s what we strive to do.
On how he rates his experience as president: It’s been a great four years, 11 months. Since March it hasn’t been near as gratifying, dealing with the coronavirus and the changes that we’ve had to make. Not having personal meetings, face-to-face meetings, not only from the board but from the different legislators, from the governor not meeting face-to-face. I’ve talked about that ever since I’ve been here. I’m a one-on-one, face-to-face person. That’s had to be put on hold. That part I don’t like. But it has been a great journey for four years, 11 months, to lead this organization. I told several of the board members, it’s not what I did, it’s what we were able to accomplish as a team, from the board all the way to the employees, what we’ve done as a team. That to me has been the most successful part, as a team. I want to thank everyone that supported me and stood behind me. We did not always agree, but at the end of the day, we came together, we made it work and we’ve been successful. I can’t say enough thanks to the ones that have worked to make it possible.