Southampton County to get new extension agent

Published 9:09 am Wednesday, April 20, 2011

COURTLAND—Southampton County can expect a new Virginia Cooperative Agriculture Extension agent on board in a little over a month, according to Southeast District Director Lonnie Johnson.

“It’s been advertised, but I can’t share how many (applied),” Johnson said. “We have a good applicant pool.”

When extension agent Wes Alexander retired on March 1, 2009, he was not replaced because of state cutbacks and a hiring freeze. This was a concern to county officials because Southampton is one of the largest agricultural counties in the state.

After the state did some restructuring, Neil Clark was brought on board on July 1, 2010 to provide a presence for the Extension agency.

The state on Oct. 7 announced a blueprint for moving forward with plans to reorganize the agency. In the 2010 budget bill, $5.5 million was eliminated for the agency and its administration was told to restructure and consolidate offices.

There were 200 extension agents and 100 support staff in Virginia in addition to 80 more specialists who work in Blacksburg and Agricultural Research Stations.

The extension office is funded equally by the federal, state and county governments. Southampton County has always maintained its share, according to county administrator Mike Johnson.

Lonnie Johnson said the state also has come up with the money for a 4-H agent. Southampton and Isle of Wight counties will share the agent. The state and counties will equally split the cost of staffing the position.

“The position would serve both localities equitably,” Johnson said. “There are existing 4-H offices in both counties, and I would expect the agent to spend time in each of the local offices, however, the most important factor would be to provide visible youth development programming in both localities.

He expects the 4-H position to be advertised in three to four weeks.