Former Acting Chief of USDA NRCS

Leonard Jordan

Career Sector



BS in Agronomy

Briefly describe your career path from college to today.

  • Graduated from Tennessee State University in 1977.
  • Began full-time professional career with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)-Indiana in June of 1977 as Conservation Technician. Served in various positions throughout Indiana until November of 1994.
  • Transferred to Oregon NRCS in 1994 as an Assistant State Conservationist. In May of 1998, I became the State Conservationist for Washington State until July 8, 2001.
  • Transferred to the State Conservationist position in Georgia in July 2001 through 2005.
  • In January of 2005, joined the ranks of the Senior Executive Service (SES) as Division Director in Washington, DC. Held several positions as Division Director, Deputy Chief, and Regional Conservationist until December of 2012. In December of 2012, I became the Associate Chief for Conservation. I served in that capacity until asked to serve as Acting Chief, January 20, 2017, until present.

What was the best advice you received regarding your career?

Strive to learn all that you can, be mobile, work hard, and to be willing to take on new challenges.  Additionally I was always encouraged to seek mentoring and coaching from individuals both inside and outside the agency. I followed those recommendations.

Describe the best choices that you’ve made along your career path.

I chose a mentor/coach that was genuinely interested in seeing me succeed, and followed the recommendations. I've also been well-served by being mobile and capitalizing on opportunities that caused me to stretch.

What have you done to continue your education and professional development following college graduation?

I've enrolled in various courses to enhanced my skills and abilities.  I've also pursued detail assignments to gain different experiences in areas where I needed to strengthen and broaden my skill sets.

How has the Soil and Water Conservation Society impacted your career, or contributed to your continued education and/or professional development?

I have been an active member of the Society since 1979. The Society afforded me an opportunity to grow professionally, by taking on leadership roles and participating in many workshops and conferences. I strongly believe and know without a doubt the Society prepared me for greater leadership roles and responsibilities.

What is the job outlook for your current position in the future? Also, what changes in required skill sets do you anticipate? 

There's always some type of changes - that's simply the way of the world. We must be nimble. My permanent and current acting position will definitely be in demand. We must continue to focus on ensuring that our customers get Class A service. Therefore we must explore and consider if the existing delivery model needs adjusting. To do that we must first know our customers and hear from them their needs.

What advice do you have for college students or early career professionals who might want to work in a job similar to the one you have right now?

For college students, I would say to make sure their courses of studies align with their career objectives, affording them job opportunities. For early career professionals, be motivated to be the best you can be. Set goals that reflect over time an increase in responsibilities. Get a mentor and be flexible and mobile.

The mission of the SWCS is to “foster the art and science of natural resource conservation.” Describe what impacts you have on fostering the art and science natural resource conservation within your current job.

My role is to always explore new and emerging science and technologies. I work to always ensure that policies are flexible enough to be the most effective in addressing the private land-users' abilities to practice good stewardship voluntarily, resulting in effective resource management.

What do you like the most about your job?

I love the opportunity to have a positive impact on the quality of life in rural America, to help strengthen the economical conditions of families, communities, and our great country through voluntary conservation actions.