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Calumet UWEX agents resign as state ‘reforms’

October 13, 2016

By Ed Byrne The Brillion News

Volunteers will have to take stronger role in 4-H, fair

CHILTON – Three of Calumet County’s four UW-Extension agents have resigned, and two of them have already cleaned out their offices and left.

The turnover is not normal and one factor is the cuts in the statewide UW-Extension budget.

The impact of the budget cuts will be felt more in smaller counties, like Calumet, where the days of an extension agent serving a single county appear to be over.

Andrea Braatz, the Calumet County 4-H and Youth agent, was the first to resign and leave – back in early September.

Agriculture agent Eric Ronk left last Friday.

Mary Kohrell, the head UW-Extension agent for Calumet County, is done at the end of the calendar year. Her specialty is community and economic development.

Nicole Hickinbotham, president of the Calumet County 4-H Leaders Council, wrote in the October 4-H newsletter: “We do not know at this point if Calumet County will get approved for a new Youth Educator position, and we are doing all we can to at least hire a part-time assistant to help us move through this difficult time.”

She said she does not expect the 4-H programs to go away, but it is clear from Hickinbotham’s letter to 4-H families that the volunteers who are the heart of 4-H clubs and their program will have to run the show.

“In the past, the Youth Educator has been a primary coordinator of things like the spelling bee, youth trip interviews, leader training, and even summer camp,” Hickinbotham wrote. “I would like to challenge all leaders, youth, families, and clubs to step up and help the Board fill the gaps so that we can enjoy a full program year of 4-H activities.”

Ronk resigned his UWEX job here to take a new position as an outreach specialist at his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin College of Dairy Science.

“It’s kind of a mix of teaching short-course classes that are offered there, and helping with the three dairies [run by the college], one on campus, one at Arlington, one at Marshfield,” Ronk said.

The job also involves some research and public relations work with farm tours. In many ways, it’s like the work Ronk has done in Calumet County, but the venue changes to university facilities.

The job is a brand new position, so Ronk will be able to set the standard.

With the uncertain future of the county UW-Extension services and jobs, it was also a move to a more secure job.

Please see the complete story in the October 13, 2016 edition of The Brillion News.


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