by Steven L. Miller,
Office of Communications and Technology
Without the collective contributions by county government, the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service would be without staff, funding for operations, and offices to provide services to citizens.
In honor of that support, the Wyoming County Commissioners Association (WCCA) has been selected the College of Agriculture’s 2007 Research/Outreach
Partner of the Year. The association will be honored during Ag Appreciation Weekend October 5-6 in Laramie.
Counties are part of the cooperative partnership trio, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and UW.
“Each of the partners is important, but the county government contributions are critical to the success of cooperative extension,” says Glen Whipple, UW
CES director and associate dean in the college. “As the elected leaders of county government, the county commissioners are literally the college’s partners in the extension enterprise.”
Kent Connelly, Lincoln County Board of County Commissioners chairman and president of the WCCA, says he is pleased the association received the award.
He views CES services vital to Wyoming citizens. “We are very happy the award came our way,” he notes. “It reflects the efforts we are putting forth and the direction the county commissioners are going. In our commissioner meetings, we have a group trying to protect our Wyoming lifestyle. We have a lot of farmers and ranchers on county commissions, and we represent that very loudly.”
Bill Glanz, Washakie County commissioner, entrepreneur, and former rancher, is in his 15th year as commissioner. “It’s great to be recognized,” he says. “We’ve worked hard trying to get things to work well with the extension service. I don’t know if the relationship has ever been better.”
That hasn’t always been so. The creation of an extension advisory committee within the WCCA several years ago seems a turning point. “At least once a year, if not more, the committee meets with Glen Whipple or another person from the CES about events, if there are problems around the state, or what could be done to make it better or how extension can be improved,” says Glanz. “Since that happened, we don’t hear anything at our state meetings, not like it used to be.”
Connelly says the difficulties arose from Wyoming growing up as a state. “Twenty-five years ago, we were agriculture and now we are a mineral-based state,” he says. “How do you adjust and work with CES and use its resources?”
County government provides funds, space, and equipment support to the CES. Total annual funding is almost $3 million in fiscal year 2007, up almost 73 percent from 1998. Counties provide 31 percent of the funding for UW CES. The figures do not include county-owned office space, notes Whipple.
Collectively, county commissioners provide 26 extension office locations, housing 142 CES educators and staff members, Whipple wrote in his nomination letter.
Counties also provide clerical and secretarial support to county operations. Each county has at least one county-provided clerical/ secretarial support person. Many counties have two or more.
There’s more. Counties provide:
“In our little county here, we have about 200 kids in 4-H,” says Glanz. “We have a lot of people grown up now who were in the program and are local residents.”
4-H is the largest nonschool program for youths in Wyoming, with more than 8,000 youths participating. 4-H is the youth arm of CES, and its state offices are in the College of Agriculture.
Connelly says Lincoln County’s support of CES is reflected by moving and housing CES in two new community center buildings – one in Kemmerer and one in Afton.
“The job our extension offices are doing can best be described by our commitment to build both the Afton (CES) office and the Kemmerer office a new set of facilities that serve the public with better
access in the new events centers,” he says. “They will be housed each in a multi-million dollar facility with great exposure.”
Connelly places a high regard on 4-H. The county is also building a barn at the rodeo grounds so urban youths can have 4-H animal projects. “4-H teaches kids the work ethic, that’s one I believe is missing in our kids today,” he says.
He notes Lincoln County Fair numbers have grown the past four years. “There is a new awareness we are missing something as a community for our youths,” Connelly says.