Mark Walker, Dean and Director of the Cooperative Extension, came to Eureka in July from the University of Nevada where he has been for 16 years from a Cooperative Extension appointment that lasted 12 years.
Walker was appointed interim Dean for two years and his goal for Cooperative Extension is to see the program do a national search to which he’ll apply.
“I think you know things have been difficult at the Extension…coming out of a period of budget cuts.” Walker said, “Because of the big general fund reductions the amount of money that goes to Cooperative Extension from the state has decreased. That meant if you want to consider the total amount of funding going to the Cooperative Extension from federal, grant, county and state monies. The proportion of funding from the County levels has gone up proportionately meaning the level of county support and the programs that go up to the counties are more important as classified employees, like Dr. Fred Steinmann who serves Eureka County, are tenured and carry out programs funded in large part by the counties. “It’s important to identify needs and county programs that are going to be effective and useful,” Walker said.
Walker turned to the issue of 4H, which “lost two layers of leadership” as of July 1st even as new staff has been hired to manage 4H at the local levels. Walker said one of the problems is these staff don’t know the campus and aren’t well-connected there and he wants to see them more connected to people on the campus and wants to see the connection between the counties and the university strengthened to ensure faculty who can help with subject matter in such things as animal science or geology are available. He wants to see the connection between county 4H programs and the campus become stronger and to strengthen 4H across county boundaries.
“There’s a big challenge there. I’m going to convene a meeting of 4H leaders from across the state probably in February. They’ll follow a meting we’re having to talk to the specialists and the educators to see if we can’t come up with a pretty cohesive plan on how to move forward; but part of the reason for that meeting with 4H leaders is to bring them to the campus, give them the training that they need and introduce them to faculty members who we hope we can engage with the programs that we’re trying to deliver on the ground,” he said.
“Now it isn’t just the University of Nevada that can help with 4H. I think there’s a lot of other people, too.” Walker repeated that “two echelons for leadership for 4H in the state have been wiped away; that leaves a person who’s at 80 percent of the time trying to manage the whole state, all the programs, a junior person at that, good heart, great effort works very hard and becomes very frustrated a lot of the time because she can’t do what needs to be done.”
Walker thinks the level of leadership across the state needs to be reestablished to help the 4H programs “live up to the promise they’ve always had.” Walker said, “Everything can be improved, but 4H is a great initiative at the county level to help kids discover science and learn basic skills.” Walker is a ‘water guy’ not an ‘animal guy’ but he’s seen the confidence in 4H kids who talk about their animal projects and sees 4H as strengthening the family multi-generationally. Walker asked for questions and comments.
Mindy Filippini of Crescent Valley said, “I guess for us here in Crescent Valley” the concern is to see the Eureka 4H coordinator “position filled as soon as possible.” Filippini noted, “We have several new leaders here who want to sign up and get things going” while encountering difficulty in getting questions answered and leaders trained and have had trouble finding out when things will be scheduled. Filippini said not having someone in Eureka to answer phones and answer questions has been problematic. Without a 4H county staff member, the purchase of livestock becomes problematic until participants know that the 4H program is on track for the year.
Chairman Goicoechea asked where the search for the local 4H coordinator stands. Dr. Steinmann noted that 4 months ago Lynn Conley who had been the coordinator resigned and Steinmann had decided to wait a few months to open up the position as reorganization happened in White Pine County as well.
Steinmann hopes to see the search underway and selection begin January 1 and said filling the position as Extension Educator is one of his top priorities.