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Illinois Ag News Headlines
New Extension Director Offers Hope for New Direction After Local Funding Dispute, Personnel Shakeup
Illinois Ag Connection - 11/29/2023

Katie Buckley can remove the interim tag from her title as director of the University of Illinois Extension for Livingston, McLean and Woodford counties.

Buckley was named acting county director of the office in November 2022, following the reassignment of its past leader in the wake of allegations of financial and staff-related mismanagement issues (which Extension officials said was unrelated to the reassignment). Earlier this year, Buckley’s title was upgraded to “interim.”

Regardless of the past rift, which played out over several months and culminated with the McLean County Board balking at a suggested tax levy of $300,000 for the three-county Extension office — instead approving $30,000 — Buckley said she is motivated to make an impact in the areas of community, economy, environment, food and health in the region.

“There is a need in all areas. I think my biggest focus is going to be on community. I want to make sure that communities know about what programs we have to offer, and what we can provide to make our communities stronger,” said Buckley, who started with Extension in August 2020 as a 4-H youth development educator after being employed with the LeRoy School District as a special education and, later, STEM teacher.

Buckley said the scope and direction of Extension has expanded over the years, with a focus no longer primarily on agriculture. She wants to get the word out that Extension can benefit almost everyone in the three-county community.

“Agriculture still plays a large part. While we don’t have a commercial ag educator here on our staff, we do have a local foods-small farms educator, a nutrition and wellness (educator) which ties back into agriculture, and we have 4-H, which also plays a big role,” said Buckley, who was named 2019 Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year by the Illinois Farm Bureau while working for LeRoy. “(Extension is about) creating that workforce, not only for agriculture but for all of our communities.”

Extending an invitation to her table

Buckley is eager to put past disputes over where county funding is invested and personnel clashes in the rearview mirror during her time as Extension director.

“I think it’s just about being open and transparent. I’m not saying that we weren’t, but there are some preconceived notions and (I am) just trying to clear things up and communicate in working with all the county boards in all three counties,” she said. “If they have questions, or if anyone in the community has questions, all they have to do is ask; we have nothing to hide here. I’m always open for those kinds of conversations.”

With Extension funding coming from national, state and local governments, Buckley said it’s understandable that local public officials and citizens would have questions about the inflow and outflow of funds.





Source: nprillinois.org


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