2019 Emerging Leader Award winner: Shawn Boyle proves to be quick study
Less than two years into his potato career, Shawn Boyle has made quite an impression. There seems to be no shortage of people willing to sing his praises for the work he’s doing as the president of the Idaho Grower Shippers Association.
An attorney by trade, Boyle represents the collection of fresh potato shippers by helping to advance business opportunities, education and being a voice to legislative decision-makers.
For his efforts, Boyle has been voted the winner of 2019 Spudman Emerging Leader Award sponsored by Yara. The voting panel included Spudman staff, past ELA winners and members of the potato industry.
Boyle took over at IGSA in February 2017 after working as the in-house counsel for fuel wholesaler Hall & Associates. He received numerous nominations for ELA honors.
“Shawn has been an outstanding leader and continues to align and influence those he is leading,” said Marc Christensen of Mart Produce. “(He) is humble, engaging and a good listener. He is competent and respectful of others. He is passionate and clear when communicating goals and objectives. He is organized, patient, and doesn’t waste people’s time.”
PAST WINNER: Eric Schroeder, 2018
Boyle didn’t grow up on a potato farm, but, as a resident of Shelley, it was impossible not to be cognizant of potatoes’ influence in the region. After all, the Shelley High School mascot is the King Russet.
“Although my parents were not farmers, my great grandparents were potato farmers,” Boyle said. “During high school, we’d get two or three weeks off every fall to help with the potato harvest. I played a lot of sports in high school and I always had a Russet across my chest.
“It’s part of who I am.”
After graduating from Shelley High School, Boyle received a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and then a law degree from the University of Idaho. After five years in the fuel industry, during which time he established the in-house legal counsel department at Hall & Associates, Boyle saw the IGSA position as a chance to get out from behind a desk and into the community where he could make a difference.
“It’s the people that drew me to this job,” he said. “I have found that some of the greatest people in the world are in the potato industry.”
PAST WINNER: Yi Wang, 2017
Humble, but driven
Boyle’s colleagues call him humble and describe him as a dedicated husband and father who is active in church and community. Boyle is married to Chelsie and the couple has three children: Zoey, 9, Ellie, 8 and Isaiah, 4.
Beneath the humble, All-American exterior is a no-nonsense attorney who doesn’t waver when he sets his mind to something.
“Shawn is a pit bull with leadership,” said Klade Williams of Moss Farms.
When Boyle started, he sat down with the IGSA board of directors to create a plan. Education, advocacy for the industry and transportation were among their targets.
Boyle’s role includes organizing the group’s annual convention, which takes months of planning, said Calvin Butler of GPOD Idaho, arranging educational seminars, attending countless meetings and conventions and addressing concerns with legislators in Idaho and Washington D.C.
“Everybody is willing to give you their time because they know how important potatoes are,” Boyle said. “It’s something that I’m proud to wear on my chest, that I’m part of this industry.”
PAST WINNER: Benjamin Sklarczyk, 2016
Boyle has helped establish a new scholarship campaign that offers opportunities for IGSA employees and their families. More than $15,000 was awarded the first year, with a similar amount to be doled out in year two. Boyle told the story of the winner of the largest amount, whose mother has been a longtime potato sorter for an IGSA member.
“This girl, her parents basically got a third-grade education in Mexico and she was the one who learned English and translated for the family,” Boyle said. “She sent me a letter with chocolates telling me how much this was going to help her family.”
Another of Boyle’s tasks is to make education more accessible for IGSA members. He used an example of a food safety certification course as one of the ways the organization is accomplishing the goal.
“It’s a three-day training course,” Boyle said. “Typically, if one of our individual members were to send their food safety expert to training in some other state, it’s $800 just for the course. Then they have to travel and pay for food. We charged $100 a person. … They left with a certificate that if they get audited, they can show to say they’re compliant.”
IGSA also recently worked with the Idaho State Police and the governor’s office to draft an official letter clarifying the federal 150-mile radius exemption for agricultural shipping regarding the electronic logging device law.
“Of course that helps our members, but that’s something that everybody should be doing,” he said.
MORE PHOTOS: 2019 Emerging Leader Award winner Shawn Boyle
Passion for people
What drives Boyle’s strong work ethic is his passion to help others. Seeing his work make other people’s lives better doesn’t make it seem like work, he said.
“You always hear about people who say, ‘I never had to go to work one day in my life because I did what I loved.’ I never really believed that until now,” he said. “When you feel like you’re doing something that makes a difference and benefits people you care about, it’s fun.”
Boyle was recognized as the ELA winner during the National Potato Council’s annual awards banquet in Austin, Texas, on Jan. 11.
Established in 2013, Spudman’s Emerging Leader Award was created to recognize people under the age of 35 who are making a difference in the potato industry. Yara, which specializes in crop nutrition, is a proud sponsor of the award.
“We want to congratulate this year’s recipient, Shawn Boyle,” said Yara regional manager Jimmy Ridgway. “We feel that it is important to recognize and value excellence in younger people in the potato industry. We look forward to continuing our sponsorship.”
— Top image: The Boyle Family, from left, Chelsie, Isaiah, Zoey, Ellie and Shawn. Shawn Boyle is the winner of Spudman’s 2019 Emerging Leader Award. Photo: Bill Schaefer