LOGAN, Utah — Growing up in Bingham County provided Neil Abercrombie with much of the understanding of his new job at Utah State University.
In December USU President Stan Albrecht named Abercrombie as director of government relations.
As such he will help USU garner state and federal funding for key academic programs and research projects.
"A lot of our programs and research have direct relevance to Bingham County," Abercrombie noted in a telephone interview last week. "One of our primary focuses this legislative session is to get funding to start a doctoral veterinary program."
Before returning to Utah State — he has a bachelor's degree in Law and Constitutional Studies and a master's in political science from the university — Abercrombie was director of policy research for the Utah League of Cities and Towns. He worked for that organization for the past five years.
He is a 1996 graduate of Aberdeen High School.
"One of the benefits of attending a small school is you get to be involved in a little bit of everything," Abercrombie said. He played football, basketball and golf, was student body president his senior year and was involved in the youth legislative and Close Up programs.
"I definitely tried to fill my time," he recalled with a laugh.
"The youth leadership program definitely opened my eyes to the policy-making process," he said.
Teachers who helped him on the road to his career, he said, included English teacher Cheri Mitchell, basketball coach John Wilson and his dad.
"Cheri helped with the youth legislative program and Wilson taught public speaking," he said. "Through him I gained confidence in speaking, definitely a key skill to learn. And my dad was always intrigued in the different aspects of making a good leader."
With his parents — Gary and Sherian — working in the Aberdeen and Snake River school districts, he attended schools in both.
His dad was taught science and agriculture at Aberdeen while his mother spent many years teaching at Rockford Elementary before finishing as director of the Snake River Public Library.
Although he now bleeds Aggie Blue, as the news release about his hiring noted, Abercrombie didn't originally intend to attend Utah State.
"Initially I had planned to go to a different university," he said. "I went late in the summer of my senior year and loved the campus. I found it to be a great community."
He fit an LDS Church mission to the Arkansas Little Rock Mission between his freshman and sophomore years.
He is married to Mica McKinney, a fellow USU graduate from Highland, Utah. She earned a law degree from the University of Utah and now practices with a Salt Lake law firm.
"I wanted to have a career where I could work in academia," Abercrombie said. "While my primary focus is working with the legislature, I get to work with students, too."
He said he is excited to learn about the great research, learning and projects going on at Utah State as he works to ensures its growth as a top regional university.