MOUNT VERNON — With the state budget now official the other shoe has finally dropped for the Knox County OSU Extension. But it has dropped a little more softly than expected. There is a shake up in the office with the loss of one staff position but it seems it will work out well for all concerned.
Extension educator Jeff McCutcheon is the odd man out at the local office. However, he is being reassigned to Morrow County to fill an open position there.
Troy Cooper will replace John Barker as the director of the Knox County OSU Extension Office.
Barker will remain in Knox County as an extension educator but will split his time between that and as area leader for the nine-county Heart of Ohio OSU Extension Education and Research Region.
“This all came about as of Monday,” Barker explained. “With the combination of county budget cuts and the state budget situation, we ended up losing one position.”
That position was McCutcheon’s.
“There was a position open in Morrow County and Jeff will be going there effective Aug. 1. Obviously, we are really sad to see Jeff go. He’s a great person and a great educator. He will be only one county away and we will still be able to do things together.”
Barker will be splitting his time between being an educator for the Knox County OSU Extension and an area leader for the new extension and research area.
“With the Extension’s reorganization, all the counties in the state have been divided up into nine areas,” Barker explained. “I am what is called the area leader for one of those areas. It’s called Heart of Ohio, that’s the name of our area.”
The Heart of Ohio region includes Morrow, Marion, Knox, Franklin, Delaware, Licking, Fairfield, Madison and Pickaway counties.
“My responsibility will be to help ensure we are getting the right type of programming in those counties. [I will be] working with the educators in those counties to develop programming in all the different areas and to work with them and their advisory committee and their commissioners.”
The new divisions will also make the expertise of all the educators in the district available to all the county extensions. This will help save some money and use the extension’s resources more efficiently. Barker emphasized that each county extension office will still have the same control over its operations but resources will be more available through sharing among the county offices in each district.
Cooper is looking forward to the new challenge of heading up the Knox County office.
“Well, there is going to be more responsibility for one thing,” Cooper said. “I am in charge of the county (extension office) budget which is the biggest thing. I will be putting together and managing the budget for the office. And there are some administrative responsibilities but they shouldn’t be too difficult.”
As far as the reorganization goes Cooper is cautiously optimistic.
“To be effective in all nine counties we are going to have to develop a good working relationship. It’s going to have to be based on the county educators and I think it’s about developing a working relationship with each other. That’s why I think it’s good with Jeff going to Morrow County. We have worked together and have something established. He will still be doing programming here and we will be going over there and it’s really a matter of taking our expertise and sharing it. That way we are able to focus in on something each of us is good at and make it farther reaching.
“But one of the drawbacks is that we are going to have to become a little more generalist, at least here in Knox County. I am going to be taking up some of the slack with Jeff gone. I will be answering more livestock questions than before.”
For McCutcheon, leaving Knox County is a bit bittersweet, but he will still be doing what he loves.
“We have a great county here in Knox and I will be sorry to leave,” he said. “But there is a new challenge and I’ll still be doing what I love to do.”
McCutcheon will be the ag and natural resources educator for Morrow County.
“I have had good contacts over there over the years,” he said. “And it will all be a positive experience. It’s going to be different but I have worked with them before and I will certainly be utilizing the resources both John and Troy have to offer.”
The change takes place Aug. 1. The Knox County Extension will still be offering all the services it has in the past and can still be reached at 397-0401.