A leader with a green thumb
Councilman Dillard utilizes his agriculture background to better his community
A favorite part of being a Choctaw Nation Tribal Council member is looking ahead, trying to plan for the future and truly being able to help people when they are in need, according to District 10 Councilman Anthony Dillard.
“If somebody comes to you and needs help for whatever circumstance, whether it’s health related or job related,” he explains, “and you’re able to help – that’s what keeps you coming in. It’s those success stories.” He says he’s glad to be able to assist tribal members in utilizing the numerous programs the Choctaw Nation has to offer. Dillard was born in Talihina to Glen and Christine Dillard. He was raised in Caney and attended school there, graduating from Caney High School in 1986.
After graduation, he earned a Federal Junior Fellowship through the USDA to work at the OSU/USDA Wes Watkins Research and Extension Center in Lane. Dillard says that part of the fellowship was to go to college and take classes that would benefit his position at the research center.
He attended school at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, then transferred to Oklahoma State University (OSU) in Stillwater where he graduated in 1991 with a bachelors degree in horticulture.
It was during his time at Southeastern that he met his future wife, Janie. Dillard was employed at the Choctaw Nation Bingo Hall in Durant, where Janie also worked in management. He transferred to OSU and upon moving back home after graduation he began to date Janie. They married in July of 1995, and he became stepfather to Janie’s two sons, Toby and Brad. Today, he and Janie are also grandparents to four grandchildren.
Also after graduation, he went back to work at the research center as a research technician. There, his work emphasized on several different disciplines of agriculture research, from genetics, plant pathology and molecular genetics. “I knew that I wanted to stay in this area and it was a good job for the area,” says Dillard about his job at the research center.
He was employed there for a total of 20 years, working there following his senior year of high school, then his college fellowship, and his post college days, until he was elected councilman in 2005. He stayed on part-time for a year after he was elected. “Doing research has probably helped being on council considerably because of the problem solving that the position entails,” he says.
The councilman position is a legislative arm of the tribal government for the Choctaw Nation with numerous responsibilities, such as approving annual budgets for over a hundred different programs. This position also consists of program oversight, approving laws that govern the tribe and providing leadership to help guide the tribe into the future.
“You look at the council position and might think it to be just passing council bills and worrying about the finances,” Dillard explains, “but you also dive into a lot of social work when you start talking about different individuals, with their needs or what’s going on in their lives and what they need help with. So you end up doing a lot of social work as well.”
Dillard’s service area includes Atoka, northern Bryan and southern Pittsburg counties and is currently serving his second term in office.
Dillard helps prepare the meal
at a community meeting
Dillard serves on many community boards in the Atoka area, such as the Atoka County Tornado Organization for Recovery, or ACTOR, after an F3 tornado went through his district, Southeastern Electric Co-op Board of Directors, Atoka County Rural Water District #3 and Oklahoma Southeast Economic Development Board. He has also served on the Caney school board and Atoka County Fair Board, which he says helped prepare him for the office of councilman.
He thinks that the agriculture department is very valuable and is an extremely positive activity for kids to be involved in during school. “If you’re not showing animals and just doing the leadership aspect of FFA, it is also very valuable as far as the speech contests, getting up in front of people and the ability to be able to do that will help you in the future. It can help your success as a young person and open a lot more doors for you.”
Because of Dillard’s agriculture background, he was eager to tell about the community garden he helped start about four years ago. Since the Atoka Community Center didn’t have a place for a garden at its former location, Dillard asked the research center in Lane, a town approximately 11 miles to the east, if they would help with space for the garden. He would help supplement the garden and assist as needed. Dillard said it worked well until the research center closed.
Upon building the community center at a new location though, the garden was also relocated. Dillard was pleased to say that the Atoka Community Center has been approved to build a greenhouse at the location. Along with the greenhouse, “it would be nice to able to do some stuff throughout the winter,” Dillard says, “but also where we can grow transplants for our seniors to plant for their own gardens and help supply them.”
This year, with the help from several of the seniors and employee Kendra Sparks, they were able to can a lot of dill pickles, made from cucumbers from their community garden. Dillard’s aunt and uncle gave him a delicious recipe for the pickles. He says he has canned pickles in the past, but nothing like this recipe.
The food out of the garden is shared amongst the seniors, Dillard says. “It’s good because we are promoting our culture,” he says. “[Choctaws] were a farming culture. There are so many things about our ancestors’ way of life that we really should be embracing, such as living off the land, and that’s what we try to do with our community garden.”