I guess most people get a bit "sentimental" when it comes to major milestones in their life path. By the time you read this, I too will have stepped across one of those major stones and will be in some unfamiliar territory, so to speak, as far as my career goes. I’d like to say the journey has been a good one and well worth taking; but that might sound like I’m at the end of it and I’m not! I’m just stepping down a new path.
To make my story less aggravating and a bit clearer, I’d like for you to know I am officially "retiring" from my job as an Urban Regional Extension Agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) as of Oct. 1, 2011. I know, I know—I’m way too young and good-looking (well, too young anyway) for you to even imagine me in a rocking chair or traveling around in a motor home visiting my grandchildren. In fact, I don’t even have any grandchildren (or a motor home), and my five-year-old daughter, Alli, would have a hard time getting to kindergarten everyday if I did! So, forget that mental picture.
Still, I am retiring from ACES with a tenure of 25 years of service and will be "changing hats"— even though I never actually wear a hat — to work full-time at our martial arts school in Decatur. Our school enables me to help many people in a lot of really significant ways and it is where my true passion lives. But, before I go, I want to share with you a bit about the journey I’ve had so far and my amazement at some of the places it has taken me.
If there’s one thing that’s for sure in life — it’s change. And change has been a big part of my career at Extension; but not so much in job, position, title or county assignment as just plain variety in what I would find myself doing! That has been pretty amazing, and I am really thankful to my former high school vocational agriculture teacher for steering me toward becoming a "county agent." He was the late Roger D. Dutton, by the way, and I will always be a big fan of the man. Back to changes. I have often stopped, as I went about some of the projects in which I’ve been involved with in my Extension work, and wondered, "Now how in the world did I get here doing this?" I’ll give you a couple of quick examples of places I remember having those thoughts.
Raking leaves in Memphis with a group of high school students at some non-profit agencies. We rode there in a huge bus and I was chaperoning students (I didn’t know) from all over the county as we did clean-up in the landscapes. It was a community service portion of a national 4-H conference.
Another time, I was cleaning the bathrooms at the fairgrounds in Decatur (as part of the prep work for a multi-cultural fair). I found myself cleaning bathrooms on many occasions, by the way.
Other times include touring the county with a group of goat producers from Nigeria, riding a boat with a group of Japanese youth workers in San Antonio, hauling sheep, shearing sheep, touring water pollution sites on the Tennessee River, sliding down a cable at a "ropes course," attending Space Camp, sweating (especially during tasks like shoveling manure, mulch, etc. with the "Learn & Serve" program students). I’m sure there have been lots of others over the years.
All this from a one-day trip with (now retired) county agent Harry Houston in Morgan County in 1980 and from the urging of a high school (and state representative) vocational agriculture teacher who told me I had what it takes to "be somebody" and to make something of myself.
So, here’s to you, Mr. Roger Dutton, a special, although tardy, heart-felt "Thank You!" for pushing me to step out toward a wonderful career with Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Extension truly is "the place to go when you need to know!"