AMES, Iowa – When economic uncertainty and major budget cuts prompted Iowa State University Extension to restructure into regions a year ago, the county extension councils in the new Region 20 were very quick to react to the change, according to director Bob Dodds. Sometimes tough times bring about positive change, Dodds said, and that has been the case in Region 20, covering Des Moines, Henry, Lee and Louisa counties.
R20 from Iowa State University Extension on Vimeo.
Last summer the four county councils came together to form a regional extension council and have met four or five times, Dodds said. “The councils signed agreements; and by working together the region had the resources to hire Janet Smith as an ISU program specialist for families and youth.” Previously Smith had been the county extension education director (CEED) in Henry County. CEED positions were eliminated as part of ISU Extension’s restructuring.
Kathy Vance had been CEED in Louisa County and now serves as the region’s community and economic development program manager, Dodds added. Vance, like Smith, works in all four counties.
Extension’s Region 20 also is exploring partnerships with other groups such as Southeastern Community College, Iowa Prison Industries and Iowa Department of Natural Resources, as well as individuals and commodity and professional organizations.
“We have worked with or assisted such groups in the past, but we are talking about additional and ongoing relations that possibly may involve sharing staff,” Dodds said. He is optimistic about the opportunities and believes “we should have been doing this years before.”
Dodds added, “I believe we will have partners that we never expected to have. … We’re continuing to look at areas where we need to add staff.” For example, people in the region have asked for ISU Extension assistance with small farms, horticulture, forestry, Master Gardeners, agri-tourism, Buy Fresh-Buy Local and other interests.
Dodds is one of 20 regional extension education directors. The positions were created a year ago as part of ISU Extension’s restructuring plan to facilitate an issue-based approach to delivering ISU Extension programming and resources. Dodds works directly with county extension council members to meet their legal obligations as an elected body. Together they are identifying new ways to work across county borders, provide educational programming that addresses significant issues and evaluate the results of multi-county and regional efforts.
To learn more about ISU Extension programs, contact Dodds at 319-385-8126 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the ISU Extension website, www.extension.iastate.edu/.