Spudman 7: Tamas Houlihan
Last December, Tamas Houlihan was named executive director of the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA).
For the previous 27 years, Houlihan was the managing editor of The Badger Common’Tater magazine, the official publication of WPVGA. During that time, he also held the title of communications director.
Houlihan received the WPVGA Distinguished Service award in 1997, the President’s award twice (2001 and 2015), the Agri-Communicator award in 2008 and the Wisconsin Seed Potato Industry Leadership award in 2011.
A 1985 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP), Houlihan has a bachelor’s degree with a double major in communication and German. Houlihan received the Chancellor’s Leadership Award and the Albertson Medallion at UWSP. He worked as the sports editor and news editor at the Rhinelander Daily News before joining WPVGA.
Houlihan and his wife, Paula, have seven children and two grandchildren.
What are the best words of advice you’ve received?
My father told me this when I was quite young, but I believe it to be sage advice: Do what you say you’re going to do.
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
My number one goal is to help pass high-capacity well legislation that protects the rights of potato and vegetable growers to adequately irrigate their crops. Beyond that, my goals are: to lead a potato and vegetable trade association with over 400 members and an annual budget of $1.5 million; to develop and maintain an aggressive grower relations program; and to build consensus in the areas of research, marketing, education and governmental affairs. I believe that today more than ever we face many challenges. The voice of agriculture is getting smaller and smaller. Farmers today represent less than 2 percent of the population. I look forward to working with all those involved to advance the interests of potato and vegetable growers.
What do you do to relax?
I love almost all sports. I play softball and ride my bike a lot. I am a season ticket holder of the Green Bay Packers and I enjoy attending football, baseball and basketball games at all levels (although my family will tell you that I’m not always relaxed” at these events!). I like to travel, and I especially enjoy spending time with my family. But to truly relax, I turn to nature. I love hiking and kayaking.
What would you like to be your lasting legacy?
As my wife so eloquently put it in one of her award-winning speeches, your legacy is not what you leave behind but who you leave behind. I would like my lasting legacy to be a positive impact on the lives of the people with whom I interact; it would be great if when they think of me, they get a happy feeling, and smile or laugh.
What job or work would you have pursued if you had not become involved in the potato industry?
I was a sports editor in college and that was my first job out of college, so I think I would have been involved in writing, editing and sports in some way, shape or form.
What are three things on your bucket list/must to do list?
I’d like to see the Egyptian pyramids. I must go to Antarctica. And I’ve always said that if I threw a perfect game in darts (a six-dart out in 301), I could die happily.
What is the one truth you have learned about the potato industry?
Farmers are incredibly knowledgeable and hardworking. Even if they’re going to loaf, they get up early to do it!