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Change part of life at MSU Extension Service

By By Beth Randall / 4-H youth agent
Aug. 16, 2002
Many people cringe when they hear the word "change." However, the reality is that change is a part of life. Things are changing around us at this very moment.
Just as everything around us is changing, so is the county structure of the Mississippi State University Extension Service. Changes in client needs, technological advances and tighter budgets are prompting a restructuring.
These changes took effect July 1 of this year. We're in our second month of the new structure, and I wanted to share the details with you.
Budgets, technology
Joe McGilberry, director of the MSU Extension Service, said plans for restructuring have been developing for more than a year. They will enable the Extension Service to continue to deliver quality educational programs and assistance throughout the state.
The new plan will provide a core staff in every county made up of a county director, a 4-H agent or 4-H program assistant, and one or more secretaries. In some cases, the county director will serve as 4-H agent.
In Lauderdale County
The reorganization will provide each county access to agents with multi-county assignments and more specialized training in 14 program focus areas.
The areas are agronomic crops, animal science/forages, horticulture, forestry, risk/farm management, aquiculture, environment/nutrient management, wildlife/fisheries, nutrition and food safety, health, child and family development, family resource management, leadership development and enterprise and community development.
Every county will have a staff member with 4-H responsibilities.
In Lauderdale County I will serve as county director and will continue to serve as 4-H Youth Agent. Justin Rodgers will continue as 4-H Youth Agent with emphases in livestock, horse and field and stream. He will also work with the Cattlemen's Association.
The two area agents housed in our county are Steve Strong, Area Horticulture Agent and Evelyn Acklin, Area Nutrition and Food Safety Agent. When you call our office, Edna Manley and Judy Ryals will still be answering the phone.
What's next?
During the reassignment, agents were asked if they preferred a certain location or program area. McGilberry said efforts were made to accommodate those preferences. Agents are undergoing additional training to expand their knowledge in assigned subjects.
As county director I will provide leadership in assessing local needs and coordinating program delivery. I will call on area agents to plan and deliver programs based on local needs in the 14 focus areas. I will also manage the organizations sponsored by the Extension Service, with some exceptions.
McGilberry said Mississippians now have better access to the Internet and to distance education opportunities through two-way teleconferences. Publications once available only at county Extension offices now can be found on the Internet as well.
Some things won't change
McGilberry said he believes restructuring, coupled with greater use of technology, will be a wiser use of Extension's funding and also make programs more accessible to all Mississippians.
I think people in general are afraid of change because we are creatures of habit and we grow comfortable with a set pattern. Keep in mind that change is positive and a way of meeting needs of a growing society.
One thing that hasn't changed is the Lauderdale County Staff's dedication to serve our county. If you need our help, call 482-9764.