An interview with Juanita Vero, Class of 2015, Greenough, as interviewed by Andrea Surrat, Class of 2019, Bozeman.
Leadership Montana was her wedding present to herself. In 2014 Juanita Vero got married, and in 2015 Juanita graduated from LMT. She decided that it was time to do something for herself. It was a life changing event, and it helped her figure out her own patterns. Juanita also wanted to learn about the rest of Montana as she had spent a majority of her life on the family ranch an hour east of Missoula.
The dude ranch has been a way of life for her family for generations. Her great grandparents on her Mom’s side purchased the land in 1906. Then after World War 1, her greatgrandparents put roots down there and slowly, over time decided to operate a ranch. They did not have a business plan but simply had a way of life that they felt others would want to experience. In fact, her great-grandfather was an engineer with lots of friends that would come from back east, prompting her great-grandmother to decide it was time to open up the ranch to those who would want to pay for the experience. So the business evolved from friends coming to stay into generations of families making the E Bar L Ranch a destination year after year. The railroad also created more accessibility for folks to come for a vacation, getting away from the hustle of life. It was an organic way to create a business, says Juanita. But the secret is the culture of the ranch, authentic, exciting and challenging. And not much of the success can be attributed to some business strategy, rather the interaction of the family, the staff and the returning customers makes it amazing. Juanita got married to Matt Rinella in the North Pasture of the ranch in 2014, right near where her grandfather is buried. Matt lives and works as a scientist in Miles City. The culture of their long distance marriage also works for them, and Bozeman is a great half-way point destination for getaways.
Leadership Montana was a culture shock for Juanita. People were dressed in business attire, and she felt like the mud on her boots was less than appropriate for the new crowd of colleagues. It was intimidating enough that Juanita avoided interaction and pushed back on the expectations that she would feel something special for this experience. But her favorite experience became the way that people show up and are vulnerable, and she described that as amazingly powerful. Everyone struggles, and yet those struggles are not revealed right away. She learned how important it was to go gently through the experience with others.
Juanita is a leader. She took the step to participate in LMT to further solidify those traits. Leadership means creating other leaders, she adds. It is special to watch others become better and to know you had a hand in that work. She credits LMT for making people better versions of themselves.
What is the role of Leadership Montana in the state? Juanita says that her wish is to see groups like the State Legislature go through this training so that the work of Gracious Space could keep spreading. LMT graduates know their training allows them to engage in Gracious Space, and that work makes them feel safe to engage in difficult discussions. Juanita believes spreading that culture further would be beneficial to the state of Montana.
Juanita appreciates Montana, starting with the shape and sound of the word itself. The letters represent mountains, people of philosophy, rivers and more. There is a lot of room to have physical space in Montana with significant access to nature. Not surprisingly, it is written into the Constitution. And as a state, Montana is lucky to have this commitment. Juanita feels lucky, blessed, and that it is a significant responsibility to be here, too.
Juanita was appointed as a Missoula County Commissioner in 2019. We look forward to hearing future updates from her of how she applies lessons learned from Leadership Montana and Gracious Space to this new role.