08/08/05 — John Tart now former 'Mr. President'

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John Tart now former 'Mr. President'

By Renee Carey
Published in News on August 8, 2005 1:49 PM

GRANTHAM -- John Tart III knew he wanted to be in 4-H the first time his parents took him to the fair.

He was 5.

"I went to the state fair and they were showing lambs in the main arena," the 19-year-old said. "I told my parents I wanted to do what the big kids were doing."

Now, 14 years later, and after a successful career not only as a livestock exhibitor but also as a junior judge, Tart has accomplished another milestone.

He just completed his last 4-H convention in July as president of the state's 4-H clubs.

The son of John and LaRue Tart, Tart said he has always been a part of the family farm, which grows such specialty crops as greenhouse tomatoes and strawberries.

He also worked with livestock.

"We have always had cattle and lambs as long as I can remember," he said.

His first love, however, he said, is horses.

"Pretty much as soon as I could sit myself up, Dad was sitting me on a horse," Tart said.

His father also had racehorses.

"I used to like to watch them go down the track," he said.

Tart started out showing lambs in 4-H, and gradually, over the years, added cattle and livestock judging to his list of accomplishments.

He also became a leader in his 4-H group, the Christian Youth 4-H Club.

That is where the seed formed for his next goal.

"As I got older, I got into public speaking and food nutrition and preparation," he said. "I did a lot of public speaking on horses and represented my club at the state level at age 13."

And it was at his first 4-H state convention -- called a "congress" -- that Tart got the idea that he might want to be more than just a member and leader in his local club.

"I remember sitting back on the final night and seeing the president at the time and thinking 'that is what I want to do. I want to be her,'" he said.

So, Tart expanded his work in 4-H.

He became involved in community service projects and countywide activities as a county 4-H officer.

In 2002, he represented North Carolina in horse judging, placing second.

He also became a part of the 2003 state livestock judging team, which represented North Carolina in Louisville, Ky., placing seventh in the nation.

And finally, in 2004, he decided to run for state president.

That meant campaigning, and a lot of traveling.

"There are seven districts in North Carolina and each had a district activity day," he said. "I went to all of them."

But that was just the beginning of the work.

Tart said getting elected to a state 4-H office is similar to the way nominations and elections are done at national political conventions.

He had to get nominated and then continue campaigning throughout the weekend.

He faced one other challenger for the post, but Tart said he did not know he was the winner until the last minute when the results were announced.

"It was a nail-biter," he said.

Serving as the representative for the 200,000 children who are involved in 4-H in North Carolina is a big responsibility, Tart said. He said he has grown not only as a 4-H member, but as a person during his tenure, which ended this July.

In addition to club visits, he lobbied on behalf of 4-H with state and national leaders, and served as the state's representative at various functions involving the organization.

He said the work he is most proud of, however, is a project that benefitted more than 1,000 children across the state.

Operation Military Aid was created to provide care packages for the children of deployed soldiers, sailors and marines across the state, Tart said.

Each care package included such items as teddy bears for little children, as well as cameras, diaries and postcards, so the sons and daughters could stay in touch with their parents, even while their moms and dads were overseas.

"I am very proud of what we did and the impact we had on those kids," Tart said.

Now, the 2004 Southern Wayne High School graduate is preparing for his second year at North Carolina State University. He hopes to be a large animal veterinarian some day.

But even though he is in college, he plans to continue his 4-H work. He is part of a group starting a collegiate 4-H organization, which currently has chapters in five colleges around the state.

In fact, this year, Tart was named Outstanding Undergraduate.

Even with all he has accomplished, Tart said his goal as president was simple -- to give back some of the inspiration he received during the early years of his 4-H career.

"Hopefully, there was another kid in the back like me who heard my speech at the convention and said, 'that's what I want to do,'" he said.